‘Shockumentary’: How to spot fear-based movies about food and farming

Russell Thornton

It seems as though every year a food “shockumentary” comes out (GMO OMG, Forks Over Knives, Food Inc etc). I’ve watched some of these and for others just watching the trailer is enough. The latest is “Seed” from PBS. Here’s a quick way you can discern whether you are watching a shockumentary meant to spread fear about our food without having to watch the whole show.

The #Shockumentary Playbook:


Sad, haunting music … flutes are especially popular.


• at least one old weathered yet photogenic farmer, preferably with beard, dressed in worn jeans.
• at least one mom with kids suffering from illnesses attributed to food/pesticide – no proof necessary.
• at least one interview with writer Michael Pollan, eco-primitivist gladfly Vandana Shiva, NYU professor Marion Nestle, or Andrew Kimbrell of the anti-GMO group The Center for Food Safety.

Related article:  Is food journalism too uncritical of foodies like Michael Pollan?


At least one shot of workers in Hazmat suits spraying a field ( don’t bother to mention that when workers spray certain organic pesticides they may also need to wear protective gear. Also don’t mention that what is being sprayed is primarily water and not the pesticide or herbicide)

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: How to Spot a Shockumentary: Food Edition

For more background on the Genetic Literacy Project, read GLP on Wikipedia

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