Alumnus-Produced Film Delves Into Issue of Genetically Modified Food

Film Wins Awards at International Film Festival

By Tarah Thomas '16
Friday, July 31, 2015

Jeremy Seifert conducts interviews for his movie

 

Jeremy Seifert, ’99 JBU alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in English, travels the world documenting and exposing large-scale social issues in order to stimulate social change through film.

Seifert is best known for writing and directing “Dive!,” a 2010 documentary that caused a splash as it scooped up 21 awards from film festivals worldwide.

With a budget of only $200 and three months of filming, Seifert and his friends dumpster dived around Los Angeles as he uncovered America’s system of sending food to landfills. "Dive!" exposed the overwhelming amount of food waste happening while the number of undernourished people living in the U.S. climbs.

A class project for his master's degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, "Dive!" was just a first step into Seifert’s love for film.

Seifert believes that apart from writing, film is one of the most powerful mediums of storytelling. With film, he is able to shed light on the unjust in the world through a digestible media format.

“Film is better at showing than telling, just like good writing, so you can communicate facts but a story gets more at the heart and emotions,” Seifert said.

In 2013, Seifert, now a curious father, again delved into the crevices of the food industry to ask if genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are harmful to the public health and if so, why they aren’t labeled. The resulting film, titled "GMO OMG" was released in 2013.

GMOs were put in place over 20 years ago with the sole goal of using “fewer pesticides, less water and keeping production costs down” resulting in affordable food, states the “Facts About GMOs” website.

In Seifert’s film, he makes the argument that no matter the original goal of GMOs, the effects can damage the human body negatively and GMO companies search for dollar signs instead of caring about their consumers.

Jeremy Seifert and sons

 “When people first hear about just the basic facts concerning GMOs (or genetically engineered foods) – the DNA of seeds altered with genes from other organisms like bacteria so food crops can withstand herbicides that will kill all other plants, patented by giant chemical companies and found in 80 percent of processed foods – the standard response is “Oh, my God,’” Seifert stated in an article titled GMO OMG: Is this the End of Real Food? “For some, it’s just an exclamation, but for others, I imagine, it’s the beginnings of a prayer.”

“GMO OMG” earned awards in 2014 for Best Documentary at Berkshire International Film Festival, Audience Choice at Yale Environmental Film Festival and was entered into the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival in Germany.

Seifert’s film raised awareness of what could become national legislation. Connecticut and Maine are already requiring the labeling of GMOs.

As the public becomes more aware, companies continue to state that GMOs are backed by scientific evidence. However, scientists are calling for further study. Over 200 scientists have signed an initiative requesting further research and study, stated Seifert.

Passion for the truth is what drives Seifert to do what he does everyday.

“With both of the feature-length documentaries I've made, the stories just came to me," Seifert said. "I didn't choose them; they sort of chose me. I was both upset and outraged by what I was experiencing, like the vast amounts of food we were collecting from dumpsters, and I had to tell the story.”

During his time at JBU, Seifert played for men’s soccer team and participated in many of the drama productions, but one event in particular changed his life. In ’99, Seifert almost died in a train accident. After this Seifert realized that life is an undeserved gift.

“After the train accident....waking up everyday was a gift that I didn't deserve,” Seifert said. “It's really like that for all of us, but realizing it is what changed. Each one of us has this beautiful gift of life, and it's a real tragedy if we take that for granted and assume a position of domination and exploitation over the rest of creation. We are called to care for the earth, this very good gift that God has included us in.”

Now living in North Carolina, Seifert continues to ask questions and allow his curiosity to flourish as he works on a short documentary about the harmful effects of fluoride in drinking water.

“As eaters and consumers, we participate in the systems behind those things we buy or consume, whether we like it or not,” Seifert said. “And we have an obligation to be aware of how our actions affect the world and people. Lasting change takes work and persistence, and that is exactly what is needed right now with something we have taken for granted for way too long: food.”

“GMO OMG” is available on DVD as well as on Netflix.

Movie Trailer

GMO OMG trailer from MPI Media Group on Vimeo.

Filmmaker and concerned father Jeremy Seifert is in search of answers about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and how they affect our children, the health of our planet, and our freedom of choice. His journey takes him to Haiti, Paris, Norway, and even agri-giant Monsanto as he poses perhaps the ultimate question about what we eat: is it still possible to reject our current food system, or have we already lost something we can’t get back?

 

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