Letter: In response to ‘Food Evolution masks important issues in agriculture’

Nicole Mihelich

I am an organizer of the “Food Evolution” screenings at the University of Minnesota. These screening events at the University are followed by the opportunity to discuss the film with actual experts in the field. During the first event on Tuesday, this included the acknowledgement and dissection of the film’s limitations in the context of broader food and agricultural issues. None of the panelists or organizers of the event blanketly praised every aspect of the film or marked it as a complete representation of the issues within food and agriculture. 

I have read the critiques the letter writer and his associates have distributed. The main question that popped into my mind after reading was: had they seen the film before speaking against it? These critiques often do not match up to the content and message of the film and distract from its goal to combat pseudoscience and fear-mongering. 

At the end, this letter states, “Speaking on behalf of my colleagues, we will just say that good science is more complex and scientifically grounded than this film.” As a colleague of the writer, I agree with this statement, but so does the content of the film. Regardless of if they watched the film, the letter writer and associates seem to be missing the point that this is a film primarily targeted at combating fear-mongering, not sustainable agriculture, and that it seeks to teach people to think critically about the media they consume. This message extends beyond the issues within the film. Critical reviews of the film imply that it wraps everything up in a neat bow when, in reality, it acknowledges how complicated and nuanced this issue is. Thus, while it is valuable and highly encouraged to point out agriculture and food issues that were left out, it does not justify labeling the film as propaganda. That kind of rhetoric may discourage constructive dialogue and feed into the fear-mongering before the film is viewed. 

It is hard to call something propaganda if it encourages analysis and critique. These screenings at the University were not organized to spread propaganda, but to challenge the very human tendency to accept only information that confirms what we already believe. We can also do this by seeking out data and analyzing the arguments we are presented within the media, including this film and its accompanying critiques. 

I have three challenges for you all: watch the film, assess the impact of its messages while acknowledging its limitations and stay curious.

This letter has been lightly edited for grammar and style.

Nicole Mihelich is a University of Minnesota graduate student in the Applied Sciences program.