Mother Nature can no longer claim total dominion over the future of evolution. Some of the planet’s most commonly consumed animals are undergoing extensive genetic manipulation in laboratory settings across the globe.
Scientists can create new breeds of cows, chickens and fish that grow faster, leaner and more muscular than ever before. Even fruits and vegetables – the foods we most associate with being wholesome and all-natural – are not what they appear to be. Is this cause for celebration or alarm?
The documentary Animal Pharm: Food for Thought explores this and other practical and ethical questions related to the genetic engineering of our food supply. Biologist Olivia Judson is a vocal proponent of the practice. Throughout the film, she presents her case for continued exploration of this controversial field of science. She argues that our foods have been altered for thousands of years, and cites a series of examples including the changing color of carrots, the creation of the pink grapefruit and the taming of the once poisonous potato.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is journalist and organic food enthusiast Giles Coren. Nature provides all the food the human population needs, he argues. Genetic manipulation of our food is akin to playing with fire. We may have it in our power to control this aspect of the natural world, but what are the moral, ethical and long-term health-related ramifications of doing so?
The dialogue shared by these two studious figures is fascinating, multi-faceted and enlightening. Both points of view are impassioned and, on their own individual merits, persuasive. Along the way, they tour various operations where the boldest examples of genetic research are taking place.
We witness chickens that are bred without feathers, rabbits that glow in the dark, championship racehorses that are produced from genetically altered sperm, and experiments with rice that could eradicate the scourge of vitamin A deficiency around the world. We come to recognize how these practices can prove problematic, or ultimately serve as an engine for positive change.
Whether you’re enthused or repulsed by this weird science, Animal Pharm: Food for Thought provides a valuable and informed overview of its subject.