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Genetic Chile (2010): A Hill of Beans

Genetic Chile (Christopher Dudley, 2010)

The title is superimposed over apicture of a pile of New Mexico chiles on the DVD box.

Wear latex gloves when cutting.
photo credit:

Christopher Dudley’s 2010 documentary Genetic Chile is at least honest enough to put itself out there as a “war on ideas” movie from the get-go. (Compared to, say, Hot Coffee, which starts out looking like it’s going to focus on the Stella Liebeck case before unreasonably broadening its horizons.) I mean, maybe it’s me, but it was impossible for me to look at that title and think anything other than “this is an anti-GMO movie.” And then I sat down to watch it, and I got exactly what I expected to get. As I am somewhat aggressively pro-GMO, I attempted as best I could to divorce my feelings about the subject matter from the presentation; after all, I have in the past been perfectly willing to approach movies whose subject matter I find distasteful with an open mind, and if they present their case well, recommend them, sometimes strongly. (The most recent example: Chasing Ice.) Still, I’d advise you to take what I have to say about Genetic Chile with a grain of salt, especially since (a) I also had the pleasure of watching this on a seven-inch phone screen, which is not a mode of playback for a feature-length film that I would wish on my worst enemy, and (b) I was floating in a wonderful dilaudid haze for about half the movie’s barely-over-feature-length runtime, as I was in the hospital when I saw it (viz. my review of Shank, above).

Rows of chiles dry in the sun in a still from the film.

They also make great Thanksgiving decorations if you’ve run out of multi-colored corn.
photo credit:

I’d give you a plot synopsis, but it may be more valuable to quote Cinema Libre’s summary of the film, at least its last sentence: “This film is packed with information about the harmful use of GMO technology and the ignorance shown by the proponents of GMO crops.” Given that, did they meet their own goals, however misguided those goals may have been? Simply: no. If you turn your head and squint right, you might be able to see them hitting the targets as long as you equate “proponents of GMO crops” with “multinational corporations only interested in profit”. But finding one person who is pro-GMO who does not fit that profile (a) invalidates the last half of the sentence and (b) shows that they were cherry-picking there, whether they knew it or not (my suspicion is they didn’t, and they simply can’t conceive that anyone not funding GMO research is pro-GMO). Since I am pro-GMO and do not fit the profile—I can’t afford to fund anything, including making this website its own domain name for eighteen bucks a year (as of this writing, or so the banner ad tells me)—so part 2 is down the drain before we even begin.

Part 1 is a little more interesting, in that they didn’t use any absolutes in the language, though they may have believed they were. Are there harmful uses for GMO technology? Of course there are, there are harmful uses for any technology. Does the fact that people write viruses mean you should immediately stop using your computer because someone could use it to write a virus? (That’s not a casual parallel.) Let’s reframe the question: is the GMO-ification of the chile pepper a harmful use of the technology? That is a question that, at this time, would be pretty rough to answer unless you take a lot of projections and speculations as hard fact (and if you’re doing that, you might as well not be reading this review, since your mind is already made up). “Better safe than sorry!”, I hear you saying—that is often the thrust of anti-GMO sentiment, at its core—but better safe than sorry is, pure and simple, a logical fallacy, and should be treated as such every time you encounter it (including—especially, in fact—in your own thinking). [for those who would like backup on that: “better safe than sorry” is a version of the False Dilemma/False Dichotomy fallacy. Assuming you go rid of and/or never had logic textbooks, you can find a quick writeup on wikipedia here.] I’d love to see someone make a documentary about the potential (or, hey, even the existing since, you know, they do exist) benefits of GMO crops. Of course, as soon as it came out, it would be attacked for being a front for the pro-GMO conglomerates. Like… um, me, I guess. **



About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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