Podcast

Grappling With GMOs: Daryl Wein & Zoe Lister-Jones On ‘Consumed’ — Making A Thriller Out of The Politics of Food

By November 4, 2015September 17th, 201912 Comments

“What they say all the time is: GMOs are saving the world, they are going to save the world, they are going to feed the world. The truth of the matter is, and this is a fact, we have enough food already to feed the world. It’s not about making more food—it is about better distributing the food we have.”

Daryl Wein


Most people don’t know that 80% of all processed foods currently contain genetically modified organisms.

In fact, 54% Americans know virtually nothing whatsoever about the subject of GMOs.

Filmmakers Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister Jones hope to change all that.

Enter Consumed— the very first narrative feature film to tackle the quite controversial and incendiary subject of genetically engineered food.

In the vein of Silkwood, Erin Brockovich and Traffic, Consumed is a taught political thriller of intersecting storylines that pivot around a mother’s investigation into her son’s illness and a series of archetypal characters that ultimately collide in the tangled world of genetically modified foods.

Based on a co-written script directed by Daryl that stars Zoe as the mother, I first met the hyper-kinetic Daryl and his glowing and dynamic wife Zoe at a dinner party just before they commenced production on the film. I was impressed by how informed and passionate they were about the subject of GMO. Even more impressive was their ambition and courage to tackle such a hot button issue on film. That night I made them promise to come on the podcast when the film was complete to tell us all about it. That day is today.

Zoe and Daryl launched their relationship at NYU in 2002. Then they launched their careers, combining talents on two low budget relationship comedies, Breaking Upwards (SXSW, 2009) and Lola Versus (Fox Searchlight, 2012).

The films were so well received, the New York Times dubbed them, “Brooklyn’s answer to the Hollywood power couple,” establishing the pair as fresh new talents on New York’s independent film landscape alongside generational peers like Girls’ Lena Dunham.

The prudent career move for Daryl and Zoe would have been to stay in Brooklyn. Further cultivate their very New York sensibility. Continue making relationship comedies. And carve out fine careers in the vein of Woody Allen or Noah Baumbach.

Instead, they moved to Los Angeles and quickly set up a variety of film projects currently in development. Zoe started consistently showing up in movies and on television (she currently stars in Life In Pieces on CBS with Colin Hanks and Diane Weist). But most of all, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work crafting a complex, intricate independently financed drama about the world of GMOs. Ballsy!

Last Spring, Consumed premiered to positive acclaim at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Starring Zoe alongside a stellar cast that includes Danny Glover, Victor Garber, Griffin Dunne, Anthony Edwards and Taylor Kinney, it’s just a really well done movie — I’ve watched it twice – topical, socially impactful and entertaining.

But let’s be clear — it’s not a documentary. It doesn’t presuppose to answer questions, only ask them.

Today I sit down with today’s guests to ask a few questions of my own.

This is a very fun but at times heavy conversation that confronts the complex issues raised by GMOs and addresses the multi-faceted debate that swirls around it. Topics include:

  • what interested Daryl and Zoe in the subject matter
  • what they learned about GMO researching and making the movie
  • the health & the environmental implications of GMO
  • issue obfuscation in the GMO debate
  • the socio-economic impact of GMO on farmers and consumers
  • legislative & regulatory landscape & oversight of GMO
  • federal & state labeling law initiatives
  • the DARK Act and what it means for consumers

Like today’s guests, I’m not a scientist. None of us play one on film nor on the internet. The GMO debate is nothing if not polarizing. I don’t purport to have total clarity or all the answers. But I do know this: man is prone to hubris, particularly when it comes to bending nature to his will. Given that no peer reviewed studies exist on long-term effects, GMO food is perhaps the planet’s greatest experiment in human health. Ever.

For this and other reasons, I am a staunch supporter of mandatory labeling laws. I simply believe that as consumers we have a fundamental right to know what’s in our food as a prerequisite to informed choice.

If you are interested in seeing Consumed, public screenings are currently rolling out over 100 U.S. theatres via a really interesting new crowd-sourcing distribution platform called Gathr. To find a screening near you or to organize your own, visit consumedthemovie.com/screenings.

I applaud Daryl and Zoe’s mission to introduce the world of GMOs to mainstream audiences and appreciate their willingness to share their perspective with all of you today. I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange and look forward to your thoughts below.

Peace + Plants,

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SHOW NOTES

Connect With Daryl: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Connect With Zoe: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Background On Daryl, Zoe & Consumed:

More on GMO:

Notable GMO Documentaries:

Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast:

Production and sound design by Dean Menta. Music by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson.

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12 Comments

  • Jenya says:

    Thank you for this informative conversation! It is is frustrating to see many organizations in the US propagating genetically modified foods; for example this one is on “safety” of glyphosate: http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/12/05/glyphosate-used-with-gmo-crops-under-attack-for-disrupting-microbiome-science-or-a-gut-feeling/.

  • Johan says:

    What did you find frustrating about the article that you’re pointing to?
    The last paragraph sums it up in a reasonable way I think.
    “So what’s the take-home message? Concern about the effects of GMO products is appropriate to pursue, which is why microbiologists are studying the issue. But results from in vitro studies do not constitute a reason for a sea change. What they do provide are a basis for expanded study.”

  • Just got off the wind trainer.

    Another great podcast.

    One big problem this movement has is messaging. The messaging doesn’t connect with anyone else but liberals. That has to change.

    We live in Eagle, CO. We have a lot of conservative friends. Really, conservative. I’m talking people with 40,000 rounds of ammunition around, just in case.

    I’ve been successful in connecting with them. How? Because I frame the conversation around personal responsibility and freedom. When I talk to them about how, if they keep buying the way the do that a few companies are going to be in charge of…everything, that gets their attention. Because if it’s one thing people in the mountains love, it’s freedom.

    We have friends in Paonia (ground zero for organic farming in CO, maybe the nation) who used to work for Monsanto. When they saw what was going on, it pissed them off. So much, that they quit working for them. They know what it’s like to have seeds blown in and then get a nasty gram from Monsanto.

    They really don’t like Monsanto or anything that Monsanto stands for. Not because of GMO, or organic. It’s about freedom. It’s about health. It’s about the soil. You don’t have to tell them about the soil, soil is all they know.

    These folks have disdain for the government. They don’t have much time for democrats, or anything that looks, smells, or just maybe is, a democrat.

    But they love freedom and the soil. They love family. If you show up and dig dirt with them and then they find out you’re a democrat, that’s different.

    This movement has got to focus on connecting with rural communities, with poor people, with the inner city. All those folks who see us as the other side. Until then, all that’s going to happen is we’re selling to each other.

    Thrivemarket.com is fine. But what them and so many others are missing, is that poor people don’t have Internet connections. They don’t have credit cards. Each month they have to make a choice between paying to keep the lights on and their cell phone bill.

    This movement keeps selling to each other. Please stop.

    Instead, may I suggest that we all spend every waking hour figuring out how to get people in the inner city to join us. How to connect with those who view us as an extension of Obama. How to build gardens where there used to be projects.

    5 Points is a neighborhood in Denver that’s 35 miles from Boulder. It’s where juvenile hall is, where I spent a lot of time (in juvenile hall, that is). It’s the hood. Just 35 miles West is Boulder. In Boulder, it’s all about the Tesla and tech. There is so much money in Boulder, billions. Billions being spent on some new app that we don’t need, that all tracks back to consumption.

    We need to get those tech companies to open offices in 5 Points and hire people within a mile or two of the office. We need to stand outside their offices and protest, until they do.

    From there, we need to grow food in 5 Points.

    It’ll be a great day when there’s no line for the new iPhone, but there’s a line for people wanting to help grow food in the inner city.

    Some new website selling food doesn’t do people in 5 Points any good. It’s only great, for people in Boulder or Manhattan.

    Instead, money needs to be spent figuring how to grow food in 5 Points, how to bring good paying jobs to 5 Points.

    Everyone here talks about “community”. It’s all digital mumbo jumbo. Instead, let’s start talking about building communities where food is grown. Where people walk to work to good paying jobs with health insurance and benefits. The building needs to start in the poorest areas of our country, then go out from there.

    Can we please quit thinking about how to save a few bucks on a car share, start thinking about supporting ride share services that pay health insurance and benefits?

    Instead of paying for Uber, drivers with no benefits or health insurance, let’s get in the car with companies that pay health insurance and benefits.

    So much tracks back to consumption. Everyone thinks getting their news on their iPhone or social thing is so great. But what about journalism? What about journalists? Facebook isn’t the news, bloggers aren’t journalists.

    More. Can we please stop stop saying living this way is cheaper, as part of some kind of blanket statement?

    For us, it’s definitely not. We pay a lot more, to live this way. Now, we live in the mountains, everything costs more. And we support farm to table, that costs more.

    If we lived in the city, we’d save money. How much, I don’t know. Is it just me? If living this way really does cost less, how come I only see what looks to me as well to do shoppers, mostly white, in Whole Foods? How come most of the cars in the parking lot are…not clunkers? I dunno. I see a lot of people in yoga gear there. Eh, is that really how those who struggle to pay the rent each month dress?

    You can’t just cross your arms and say, “It costs less, trust me”. Then view anyone who doesn’t agree as somehow not informed, or that they so don’t get it.

    Yeah sure, eating beans and rice all day is cheap. But who can do that? Nobody.

    One more.

    Rich, Darryl and Zoe talked about how the anti-GMO labeling crowd is pounding out links, which then get found in Google, as part of their “they’re wrong effort”.

    They’re right. Because of what’s happened with Google and the Internet, any campaign from now until Google is gone will always be fought to a draw. Because, anyone with some cash and a few average programmers can get content to land on page 1 quickly now. From there, it’s an easy game (albeit expensive, but that doesn’t matter because Monsanto has boat loads of cash) to keep content on page 1.

    So we have to quit thinking in terms of “awareness”. The awareness game is whack-a-mole. Because for every link saying GMO’s are bad, another link says they’re not.

    Instead, it needs to be about action. No link can disprove gardens, organic groceries, or offices with good paying jobs in 5 Points.

    Rich’s podcast kicks ass. He’s got me thinking about who to get food from Paonia to 5 Points. He’s got me thinking.

    Build Soil Or Die.
    http://www.buildsoilordie.com

    Every decision made each day has to be about the soil. Everything. If something is cheaper, what is the downstream damage? If it’s all about cost, what is the cost to humanity and our planet?

    Onward.

    How can we share this wonderful way of life that’s about freedom and good health with someone who’s not in our network, who wasn’t at the dinner party, who doesn’t listen to Rich, who doesn’t share our political views, who’s barely able to make it each month?

    Rich had me at hello. Now, all I can think about is how can I bring this Mary.
    http://www.heyheyrenee.com/2015/10/04/trickle-down-transformation/

    Bill Daniels said, “There are no luggage racks on the Hearse”. We won’t be remembered for what we did in life. We’ll be remembered, for what we left behind.

    I’ve got my soil, so do my friends. Now, I’m thinking about how to build soil for folks in 5 Points.

  • Nate justice says:

    There’s a spelling error in the show quote at the top (I believe) it should be “we have enough food to feed the world”. Thanks for the content Rich you are amazing and inspirational. Peace + Plants

  • Fiona Moloney says:

    Great interview Rich, love your show notes!

  • Alex Vs says:

    For a healthier Halloween check out the Teal Pumpkin Project. This year to support kids with allergies I put out Halloween stickers and glow sticks. They were a hit!

  • Good morning!

    Renee made this for our son’s class.

    – PK

  • Matt Rollins says:

    Rich,

    Thanks for another great podcast. Looking forward to meeting you next weekend at the Food = Medicine Conference in Atlanta. If you have any interest in a beautiful run on Saturday morning, this will be our 4th year of THE MUSTACHE Half-Marathon (near the conference site). Here’s the FB page: https://www.facebook.com/mustache.mann.98

    Message me and we’ll get you signed up.

    Matt

  • Patricia says:

    Great podcast. This is an issue that is close to my heart and I am very much looking forward to seeing the film! I am glad they tackled the “feed the world” argument in this interview, and I would like to add that we see this issue in stark relief in the case of “golden rice.” Children are not going blind because rice doesn’t have enough vitamin A; children are going blind because their diets have been reduced to rice and little else. Vitamin A deficiency is a symptom of a larger problem that also includes other vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which won’t be solved by increasing the vitamin A in rice. Ironically, even the vitamin A problem won’t be solved, since people would need to eat more than 2lbs per day of golden rice to get the recommended amount of beta-carotene! Instead, they could eat less than half an ounce of wild leafy vegetables to get the needed amount (which would also have the benefit of including other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients). These vegetables used to grow wild around the perimeters of the fields, but have been eradicated mostly due to increased use of herbicides (Altieri, Genetic Engineering in Agriculture, 2004).

    Speaking of herbicides, with the approval of the 2nd-generation GE crops, which are resistant to 2,4-D and dicamba, Dave Mortensen at University of Pennsylvania has estimated that an additional 800 million more pounds of Roundup (glyphosate), 2,4-D and dicamba will be used over the next 7-8 years. As Daryl mentioned, the active ingredient in 2-4,D is the same as that in Agent Orange, the herbicide that made the jungles of Vietnam look like the surface of the moon and poisoned millions of people, both Americans and Vietnamese, who are still suffering from its effects. Dicamba also is particularly pernicious because it volatizes and can travel for miles, coming back down anywhere–on an organic farm or an apple orchard, for instance. For this reason, many conventional farmers are also against this.

    In terms of AquaBounty’s GE salmon, it’s interesting to consider that in its approval process the FDA ignored the objections of more than 40 members of congress; 300 environmental, consumer health, and animal welfare organizations; and 1.8 million consumer comments filed by the public (probably the largest number of public comments ever filed on a single issue). From an environmental perspective, it has been estimated that if any of these GE salmon escape into the wild, native salmon populations may be extinct in as few as 30 generations. GE salmon are bigger, so they have a survival and reproductive advantage initially. They are also voraciously hungry, even resorting to cannibalism when food is insufficient, so we can imagine the effect this will have on the ecosystem as a whole. If ever there were a compelling case for the precautionary principle, this is it.

    Lastly, I recommend MIT researcher Stephanie Seneff’s work on the health hazards of glyphosate. According to her research, it is not just a carcinogen (as recognized by the WHO), but also causes both chronic toxicity and nutritional deficiencies. It’s important to remember that glyphosate is actually soaked up into the plants that are genetically modified to withstand it, so it cannot be washed off. Also, grains such as wheat are routinely sprayed with glyphosate as a desiccant prior to harvest, which might be contributing to the increase in celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Seneff’s published papers are available open source, or for a good lay-person friendly overview I highly recommend her interview with Jeffrey Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology (available on youtube).

  • Patricia says:

    The Health Dangers of Roundup (Glyphosate) Herbicide. Jeffrey Smith & Stephanie Seneff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_AHLDXF5aw

  • Tommy F says:

    GMO – Greed Motivated Operation

    Reminiscent of the taking of God’s American Land from Native Americans, greed intentions are taking God’s natural food cultivation from human beings.

    Namaste

  • Becky Struck says:

    Well there’s a screening right now and I wanted to go but your dumb site that they force you to order from wouldn’t work and since you don’t allow in person sales I don’t get to see it. You want to spread awareness ect then make it acceptable.

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