by Melissa Diane Smith
(Opinion) – On Tuesday, March 25th, I turned the TV channel and happened to land on a show where the first few lines I heard were about someone who had tried to blow the whistle on his employer for creating a dangerous genetically modified food. This obviously caught my attention! I thought to myself, is the GMO topic really being covered on a TV series on one of the main networks? It seemed so hard to believe, I felt like I was dreaming!
I watched this unorthodox show called Mind Games, in which brothers and partners in a unique agency are committed to solving clients’ problems using psychological tactics. The particular episode I stumbled upon, called “Cauliflower Man,” involved the firm’s team being hired by Jim McKenna, a researcher who tried to blow the whistle on his employer, a company called “PureGrow,” for creating a dangerous genetically modified cauliflower. In the process, McKenna was fired and his life was ruined. People thought he was crazy. Even McKenna’s wife didn’t believe him. The key brother owner of the firm believed him, though, and the team enacted a plan to convince McKenna’s former colleague to leak documentation to validate McKenna’s claims and expose PureGrow. I thought many parts of the show were quite well done.
SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t want to read how the show ended before you watch it, skip the next few paragraphs.
At the end of the episode, the colleague leaked the documentation, and the story ended up on the news. With a news scroll that said, “Breaking News Update; PureGrow Hid Cauliflower Risks,” at the bottom of the TV screen, viewers saw a news anchor reporting the story this way:
“We’ve obtained documents from an anonymous source that show biotech giant PureGrow knowingly hid data from the FDA – data that suggest their GMO cauliflower could be unsafe for children.”
All I can say is, wow, was that surprising! As I said, it seemed unreal to actually see this on a TV series.
A day later, I took a walk with a good friend. She and I discussed it and we were both pleasantly amazed that an episode with this theme aired on national television.
Then, guess what? Two days after the show aired, ABC announced that they cancelled the show and didn’t mention any reasons why. Is it more than coincidence that the show was abruptly cancelled a few days after an episode with a GMO theme? The order of the timing of things seems more than a little suspect. But we’ll never know for sure. The word is that the show wasn’t doing well in television ratings. I for one didn’t enjoy watching the one brother who had disturbing manic episodes. Perhaps that was a turn-off to other people, too. However, it was only the show’s fifth episode, and according to comments on the show’s Facebook page, more people were catching onto it and liking it. Some reviewers, including a TV.com writer, also liked it. There were reportedly still eight more episodes that had been filmed but not yet shown, which makes the quick cancellation of the show a couple days after an episode with a GMO theme seem all the more suspect.
Mind Games was the first TV series in which I had ever heard the topic of GM foods covered as part of the plot. The “Cauliflower Man” episode took quite a while to be put on the ABC site, but I’m happy to say that it is finally up on the site and you can watch it here.
For a while, I was concerned that ABC wasn’t going to make it available for viewing. From time to time, I have caught other TV shows where the safety of GMOs is questioned and have found that the video of it online is often difficult to find later. For example, Dr. Oz has done a number of programs on GMOs, including one that aired in my area on February 17, 2014. But when I wrote about it on March 4, two weeks later, the video wasn’t viewable on his website. It is now finally up on his site, but it took a long time, enough time that buzz about this episode had faded.
Eight years ago, in 2006, on Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer hosted a report called “Secrets in Your Food,” about genetically modified ingredients. At one point toward the end of the report, she said, “I was shocked that we’re already eating genetically modified (food). Did you all know that we’re eating (this)?” Elisabeth Leamy, a reporter who showed examples of foods that contain GMOs and those that don’t, said she was shocked as well and didn’t realize we were eating GM food until she started doing research for the story. It was an amazingly revealing report to air on a morning program on a national network and I was hoping to see more coverage on the topic in the future. However, I haven’t seen Good Morning America (GMA) or any other morning program air a similar consumer-oriented story on GM food since then. You can now find that report online, but you have to dig for it a bit. If you search for “Secrets in Your Food,” you’ll find a story but no video. The actual report that aired on GMA is considered a video on demand and can be viewed here.
Here’s the good news in all of this: Different people are using their talents to get the word out about GMOs in different ways, and reports or little mentions about the (lack of) safety of GM foods, including that topic being part of a plot in a fictitious TV series, are slowly but surely slipping into the mainstream. Bits and pieces of the information are coming out, sometimes when one is least expecting it.
The bad news is those bits and pieces can be fleeting. If you happen to see GMO-related information about to be covered in some way on national television, make sure to call the people you want to know about that right then, as videos of the show often tend to go missing, at least for a while, making tracking down the video of a GMO-related show and sharing it with others not easy (or the show may be cancelled!). Nevertheless, the information is slowly but surely coming out in various, underground and creative ways.
Even though the “Cauliflower Man” episode of this show with a GMO theme was shown only once on TV and apparently never will be again, I still think we have to see it as progress that the episode aired on national television at all.
All the people involved in the show probably paid a price for covering the topic: the GMO theme might have been the final straw to get Mind Games cancelled. But bravo to the show’s writers and producers for cleverly designing a plot about some of the most troubling issues surrounding GM foods and the biotech companies that create them! Every little bit of effort to wake people up to the truth about GM foods that’s been hidden from us helps, and I applaud them for it.
Copyright © 2014 Melissa Diane Smith