Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
Michael Moore's "Roger and Me" started a trend of advocacy movies starring One Man Looking for Answers, and the trend never really ended. Unfortunately, most of these documentaries are made by people who lack Moore's knack for troublemaking humanist inquiry, and "GMO OMG" is another such misfire: a film by Jeremy Seifert, a concerned father who wants to protect his children from genetically modified food's potentially dangerous side-effects.
At first, Seifert's quest for answers seems reasonable: he wants Monsanto, and other big corporations that promote genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) to be more accountable to their customers. But Seifert's arguments are dependent on unconvincing testimony and leaps in logic.
"GMO OMG" is supposed to be an educational tool, a film designed to make viewers curious about what goes into their food. But Seifert is usually torn between preaching to a choir of already-committed activists and educating uninformed viewers. His explanations are consequently both loaded and vague. His most reasonable argument is: Monsanto and other megalithic companies should be more transparent about studies they've conducted on their genetically modified seeds. This is a crucial point, and it's a good one. But it's rarely convincingly argued in "GMO OMG."
For starters, Seifert is apparently mistrustful of scientific terms, studies, and concepts. Like Moore before him, he prefers talking to salt-of-the-earth types to using data or statistics. One of the only scientific studies Seifert refers to in "GMO OMG" was conducted by Gilles-Eric Seralini, and Seifert even admits that Seralini's work has come under heavy criticism by his peers. It's telling that Seifert jokes about how confusing the science behind GMOs is. He first relates the World Health Organization's definition of "GMO": "organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur in nature." Then he pokes fun of how impenetrable scientific jargon can be: terms like "Agrobacterium tumefasciens," "vectors," and "TI plasmids" are mentioned, but one on top of the other, and without explanation.