On Father's day, we had a family outing to see the new movie Jurassic World, which set box office sales records when it was released about a week ago.
It was an entertaining flick with some good visuals and graphics. But, I also couldn't help seeing part of the film as an implicit critique against genetically modified food. There is one scene where one of the bad guys is discussing the new transgenic beast they've created, and his dialog was almost verbatim from the talking points from pro-biotech groups. A couple comments I remember him saying (though these aren't exact quotes) were things like "nothing's natural here" and "we've been genetically modifying things since the beginning".
In many ways the new animal they created reminds me much more of what might happen from mutagenesis (a technique widely practice in plant breeding for many decades and is NOT regulated as biotechnology, in which seeds are exposed to radiation or chemicals to cause mutations). The reason I say that is mutagenesis could cause several possible (and unexpected) genetic changes, which is exactly what happened with the dinosaur. By contrast, transgenic (or intragenic) biotechnology typically involves moving one gene from one species (or within a species) to another, in cases where it is well understood what the particular gene does.
What the movie described as occurring with the dinosaur was pretty far flung as far as the genetics go. It was asserted that because the dinosaur had genes from a certain frog it could take on not only the intended frog-characteristic but also other frog-like characteristics, even supernatural type camouflaging that avoided heat sensing.
In any event, one of the ironies of the move is (SPOILER ALERT) that the new genetically engineered beast is (partially) defeated by the evil genetic villains of the first movie - the velociraptors. The story's hero has learned to train and communicate with the velociraptors. So maybe the final lesson the movie makers are trying to get across isn't that all biotechnology is bad - just that we should sure we know how to control the technology to affect good ends.
Alas, I doubt that's the lesson the millions of movie goers will take home. Rather, they're more likely left with the impression that genetic modification is a dangerous, uncontrollable technology used by evil capitalists just to make a buck. Even though there are hundreds of scientists trying to communicate with the public on this issue, they rarely (never?) have such an audience like this movie will draw.
Or, maybe I'm just reading too much in to it. My kids were thoroughly entertained, and when I asked them what lessons they learned from the movie, neither mentioned anything remotely related to GMOs.