“A very personal, tender, touching tribute and a well-researched, enlightening and powerful documentary”.

Jacques Pepin

Last week, I wrote about James Beard. America’s First Foodie. One aspect of his legacy I didn’t mention was The James Beard Foundation, primarily because it happened after he left his place at the head of planet earth’s dining room table.

The most significant part of the foundation’s work are the awards that are given each year to recognize chefs, restauranteurs, authors and journalists. It was the soon-to-be-seen in San Miguel film, “Modified”, that won the 2019 James Beard Foundation Broadcast Media Award for best documentary.

“Modified” is about GMOs, genetically-modified organisms, and there has never, in my lifetime, been any food-oriented subject more controversial than GMOs. I have seen at least ten films dealing with the dangers of GMOs. There are probably more films about GMOs than all the sequels to Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Hallowe’en combined.

More specifically, “Modified” is about the labelling of GMOs on food products. In 64 countries in the world, government regulations require foods that include GMOs to be labelled. The United States and Canada do not. That bothered Canadian food blogger Aube Giroux. So she decided to try and find out why.

Getting a film made that’s pro-GMOs probably wouldn’t be too difficult to finance. Getting a film made that’s both anti-big business and anti-government would be almost impossible to finance. But Aube Giroux felt deeply enough about the subject to attempt and achieve it, mostly with money from her own pocket.

My personal take on GMOs is I’m confused. I’ve read a lot of articles and books and I’ve watched most of the films. It’s a complex subject that requires hundreds of hours of study to fully comprehend and form a firm opinion. Yes, I think GMOs have a role in agri-science and increasing the yield of crops in order to feed the ever-increasing population of our world. No, I don’t like the monopolistic approach and arrogant attitude of companies like Monsanto, Dow, DuPont and Bayer. And, after seeing “Modified”, I do think food processors should be required to include GMOs in their labelling.

What I like most about “Modified” though and why I think it’s such a good film is how it creatively combines the political and personal. “Modified” is about much more than a woman’s investigation into monopolistic business practices and dealing with government bureaucracy. It’s a film about the relationship between a woman and her mother, a woman and her garden, a woman and the food she puts on her table. And the film does it delightfully.

A good food documentary leaves you very hungry. “Modified” leaves me craving more information about the danger of GMOs but, more importantly for me, it leaves me starving for a home-cooked meal of backyard-grown vegetables in a country kitchen.

The film has won 14 other awards in addition to the James Beard Foundation’s honor including “audience favorite” at four different festivals. I liked it; you probably will too.

“Modified” is part of the San Miguel Food In Film Festival. It will be shown at the Centro Cultural El Nigromante in Belles Artes at Noon on February 23. For more information and tickets go to https://www.foodinfilmsanmiguel.com.

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