Planned film to counter anti-GMO arguments

Chief executive officer of Agri-Trend is raising money for a big-budget documentary to defend use of genetic modification

Farmers concerned about losing a valuable biotechnology tool are urged to support a pro-GMO movie.

Rob Saik, chief executive officer of Agri-Trend Group of Companies, said farmers are in danger of losing genetic modification unless they tell politicians and consumers the importance of the technology.

“If agriculture doesn’t stand up and speak up, valuable tools will be ripped out of our hands,” said Saik.

“Now we have really loud activists shouting out against the technology. The public is uneducated, and it is resulting in the politicians making panic policy, and they want to rip one of the most valuable tools out of our hands.”

Saik is so concerned about the anti-GMO lobby swaying decision makers that he is making a movie to show the technology’s virtues.

He hired his movie-making son, Nick, and is trying to raise $1 million to make the movie, Know GMO.

The movie is aimed not at agriculture but at consumers, politicians and decision makers, who are far removed from farming and hear only an anti-GMO message.

“The movie is going to be global in nature and looking at the memes that attack GMO around the world,” he said.

“The key here is to correct and counter some of the memes that are out there.”

Saik hopes the movie will be shown at film festivals and schools and used by politicians and the food industry to gain an understanding of the importance of GMO technology.

“Between the documentary and vignettes, it will provide an accurate portrayal of how science is being integrated in agriculture.”

Saik knew he needed to make a pro-GMO movie after talking to an American movie producer during a marketing course in Arizona. He volunteered to fly to Iowa this spring and be interviewed for an anti-vaccination and anti-GMO movie about the benefits of genetic modification.

However, his comments were edited out of the movie.

“I got back after that experience and I got mad. Here is another movie coming out that is going to slam modern agriculture and its scientific practices. I just had enough.”

Saik called some friends, who each donated $10,000 to raise $80,000 for pre-production of a pro-GMO movie.

Another $55,000 was raised in early December at Agri-Trend’s Farm Forum Event in Saskatoon.

Saik has set a deadline of Jan. 31 to raise the rest of the money to fund the movie.

Donations are funnelled through the Farm and Food Care Foundation, which raises awareness of food and farming in Canada.

Foundation board member Kim McConnell said consumers and retailers want to know more about food, and the movie will help give them the information they seek.

A recent meeting with Loblaws, the largest food distribution company in Canada, identified animal welfare, GMO technology and neonicotinoids as the three top concerns from consumers.

“This whole GMO thing is being influenced by one side. They’re looking for the other side to make a decision,” said McConnell.

“Rob is giving that side. He will help people make an informed decision. The vast majority of people are confused.”

Saik said the movie will have credibility because the producers will talk to scientists and farmers who know about the technology.

“The movie isn’t going to be based on somebody’s opinion,” he said.

“We’re going to talk to scientists around the world. It’s not going to have ‘I think’ and ‘I believe’ statements. We’re going to show people what is going on in agriculture around the world.”

Saik said people are opposed to genetic modification because they don’t understand that it is simply another tool used to improve plant breeding techniques.

“We have to teach people that genetic engineering and GMO in particular is nothing more than a progression of the breeding technology,” he said.

“Conventional breeding is really, really good, but it just takes so long to get results.”

Saik is asking farmers, retailers and consumers to donate money to the movie project through the foundation.

“To get it accomplished, I need the help of the farming community. I absolutely need the help of agriculture. We need to have people donate.”

He estimated that the movie will require $500,000 to shoot and another $300,000 for postproduction editing.

“We have no intention of making this movie a cheap movie,” he said.

“It has to be visually stunning. It has to be the kind of movie with the potential to win film festival awards. That is the kind of recognition it needs in order for it to be visible in the urban market.”

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