Matthew Willmann, Director of the CALS Plant Transformation Facility, was on hand to assist Neil deGrasse Tyson with audience Q&A after a screening of the documentary Food Evolution in New York City on November 17.
The documentary Food Evolution focuses on the science underlying the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The screening was held for members of the Motion Picture Academy prior to voting on documentaries for this year’s set of Oscar contenders. Director/producer Scott Hamilton Kennedy, the narrator Neil deGrasse Tyson, and co-producer Trace Sheehan had requested an expert on GMOs to assist with questions. Willmann’s name was suggested by Alliance for Science’s Sarah Evanega.
Willmann was called on for one question during the Q&A where he provided examples of how “naturally occurring” is not a guarantor of health. At the reception that followed, he and Tyson answered addition questions from audience members for over an hour, earning him the moniker “man of the evening” from Tyson.
Willmann commented that he was very impressed with the extent of Tyson’s knowledge about the topic. “He was a very kind and thoughtful scientist, explaining to the audience that he participated in the film not because he is ‘passionate about GMOs’, as some say, but because years and years of scientific studies support the safety and potential benefits of GMOs.”