Filmmaker Aube Giroux began this project with a question: why are genetically modified organisms not labeled in Canada or the U.S., despite being labeled in 64 other countries? The result is a visually beautiful, informative foray into the facts about GMOs, efforts to have them labeled, and how individuals are protecting the choice—and quality—of what they eat. But mostly, this is a paean to food—from seed to plant to crop, to transforming the harvest into culinary delights, to savoring the delectable creation. It’s mouth-watering, and rekindles appreciation of what nourishes our experience as living beings on a living earth.
This “mother-daughter investigative journey” highlights a shared love of food: Aube’s mom Jali is an organic gardener, food activist, and gourmand. There’s the sense of food from the start, an explosion of vitality and color from newly-picked vegetables—as Jali digs deep into the soil and pulls out potatoes, she notes “It’s like giving birth.” The tale is told gradually, calmly, like slow food…with cooking and eating interspersed throughout. Aube enjoys a homemade fruit tart while streaming passage of Vermont’s GM labeling law… and downs homemade pasta watching the U.S. Senate’s passage of the DARK Act. The effect is giving the viewer time to digest the story—with its agricultural, political, and social implications.
Graphics are used to narrate the deceptive actions of Monsanto, as significant spokespersons share thoughts on the GMO issue, including Dr. Jane Goodall; Andrew Kimbrell (Center for Food Safety); Rachel Parent (Kids Right to Know); Dr. Belinda Martineau, author of First Fruit (the GM tomato); and George Naylor, Iowa corn and soy farmer. The effect is educational while avoiding didacticism, including viewpoints of biotech developers and supporters, alarmed scientists, and farmers on the front lines. While the film is not angry, there’s frustration—after months of requests, Health Canada never granted Aube an interview. Modified is an organically paced, not-in-your-face way to learn about GMOs.
The integrity of the film lies in its simplicity and undeniable truthfulness. It’s elegiac—loss is part of life, woven into its fabric. But there’s also hope, symbolized by ownership of seeds: seeds of food, of health, of democracy, of harmony with the land. Jali reminds us: every bite we take is a choice of the kind of world we want to live in. Enjoy the abundance in hand.