The 9 Freakiest Food Facts From Consumed

Photo: Mister Lister Films.
GMOs — or genetically modified organisms — have been in the news since 1992, when the Food and Drug Administration published its first report on "food derived from new plant varieties." Now, a chilling movie called Consumed, directed by Daryl Wein and starring his wife and business partner, Zoe-Lister Jones, highlights the dark side of the food industry. It points out just how little we, as consumers, know about products we eat every day.

Lister-Jones plays the main character, a single mother named Sophie, who is led down a twisted path as she tries to figure out the cause of her son’s mysterious illness. She unveils startling information about our food culture in America: the dubious ingredients in what we eat; the decline in organic farming; the trickle-down effects of big corporations. She ends up surrounded by genetically modified organisms, genetically engineered products, and many unclear answers.

The information we learned from watching the film was pretty freaky. So, in the following slides, we look at 10 of the most terrifying things that happen in the film and how they relate to real life. The important question you might consider is, how could we be what we eat if we don’t even know what we are eating? These facts are not meant to make you ditch your bag of corn chips or take-out Chinese, but instead to encourage you to see them as nuggets of information to chew on — GMO-free, of course.

(For more on GMOs, click here.)
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Photo: Alex Marino/ OJO Images.
GMOs are everywhere, man.

Consumed takes place in a modern-day small town. Within the first five minutes of the film, diner guests guzzle fried chicken and families eat a bag of chips for dinner.

IRL: Processed food most certainly contains genetically modified organisms — and a lot of them, since GMOs are in over 80% of the food we eat. In addition to that surprising statistic, over 90% of planted corn, soybeans, and cotton is genetically engineered, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
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Photo: Jekaterina Nikitina/ Getty Images.
GMOs may not be safe.

Sophie's son, Garrett, wakes up covered in his own vomit. The next day, he breaks out in a rash. No doctors can find a cause of the outbreak and send her home. Late at the library one night after work, Sophie starts to research on her own, unsatisfied with the dismissive docs. She finds that 1 in 8 children now suffer from skin allergies. Could GMOs be related?

IRL: Scientists have found no conclusive evidence that GMOs negatively impact health. But skin allergies — mostly rashes — have increased in prevalence from 7.4% of children in 1997-1999 to 12.5% in 2009-2011, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics.
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Photo: Mister Lister Films.
Companies make millions from GMOs.

Victor Garber plays the CEO of Clonestra, the company making millions from genetically engineered foods. He is in India to give out vouchers and GE seeds that the farmers are basically forced to use. Later, we learn that one of the scientists whom Sophie consults had a grandfather who was an Indian farmer, and that he killed himself by consuming a bottle of the pesticides he'd received from a company like Clonestra.

IRL: In 2003, more than 17,000 farmers committed suicide in India, The New York Times reported. The deaths were linked to the rise in the use of genetically engineered seeds, which at double the price of typical seeds, left the rural farmers in massive debt. Desperate, many of them turned to money laundering and suicide.
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Photo: Mister Lister Films.
Big GMO companies sue independent farmers.

On the other side of town, an organic farmer (played by Danny Glover) is being sued by Clonestra for patent infringement, because the company's seeds were found on his property. The independent, multi-generational farm is his family's source of income, and the community's only source of non-GMO produce. Sophie visits the farm to try to buy organic food for her family and learns about the case. The farmer talks to a lawyer, who tells him to surrender the land and start planting Clonestra's GMO seeds.

IRL: Big companies very similar to Clonestra have sued smaller farms for patent infringement over GMO seeds. Most cases end in favor of the mega corporations, like Monsanto.
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Photo: Jessica Nash.
GMO companies are taking inspiration from Big Tobacco.

One character compares the GMO industry claims to the misinformation put out by tobacco companies. Sophie learns that it took more than 50 years for Big Tobacco to admit that cigarettes were carcinogenic and bad for public health.

IRL: It is frightening to think of the food industry as a force as evil as the tobacco industry. In 2006, a judge ruled against tobacco companies, saying they had been blatantly lying to the American public for over half a century. So, see you in a court in 2040, all you real-life Clonestras!
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Photo: Mister Lister Films.
It's hard to find foods that are GMO-free.

With her newfound (and disturbing) information, Sophie starts to realize that GMO products are virtually inescapable. She goes to the grocery store and experiences a panic attack when she realizes just how many products are filled with them. She has a history of mental illness, so the realization, coupled with the stress of her sick son, starts to take a toll on her health.

IRL: In 2013, 169 million acres of genetically engineered crops were planted. That is a lot. In fact, that is about half of the land the U.S. used for agriculture that year, reported the USDA. Those crops included corn, soybeans, and alfalfa.
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Photo: Burazin/ Getty Images.
We should all move to Vermont.

Well, the movie doesn't actually come out and say that. But after her grocery-store meltdown, Sophie runs home and is greeted by her hungry, sickly son. She opens the fridge and — ah! — GMOs everywhere. She pitches the contents as her son begs for french fries. "No!" she yells. She has to try to get him well from the inside out, since no one else will help or believe her. She doesn't feel safe having him eat anything, since the FDA does not require genetically modified foods to be labeled.

IRL: Certified organic foods and non-GMO products are usually found in their own aisle of the grocery. But you will not find a section dedicated to GMO products. Currently, Vermont is the only state that has labeling laws.
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Photo: Ruby Yeh.
Bananas, people.

The farther down the GMO rabbit hole Sophie goes, the more discoveries she makes. She learns that GE bananas are being developed with a vaccine inside of them for the hepatitis B virus.

IRL: The Guardian reported that since the late 1990's, scientists have been working to create a breed of banana that will act as a vaccine substitute.
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Photo: Star Pix /Alamy Stock Photo.
Genetically modified salmon is on the way.

In a series of real-life news clips at the end of the movie, I was shocked to learn how many foods I had eaten THAT DAY were chock-full of genetically modified ingredients. The most shocking thing? The FDA approved the production and sale of genetically engineered salmon.

IRL: As USA Today reported, that approval happened in November of 2015, when the government okayed the first genetically modified animal sold as food in the United States. “It meets the definition of a drug,” the FDA said.
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Video: Courtesy Daryl Wein.
To learn more and see the film, check for your local theaters here.