Food Security: Our Dangerous Loss of Biodiversity

Seed: the Untold Story

Directed by Jon Betz and Taggart Siegel (2016)

Film Review

This documentary raises the alarm over the disappearance of 90% of the food species humankind first identified 8,000 – 10,000 years ago . Most of these species disappeared over the last 50 years.

Of the 544 species of cabbage grown globally in 1983, 28 remain. Of 158 cauliflower species of, 9 remain; of 3 kohlrabi species (of 55); of 2 artichoke species (of 34), 2 asparagus species (of 46); and only 1 beet species (of 288). Ninety-one to ninety four of all other veggie species have been lost over the same period.

The small number of remaining species greatly increase the risk of famine in many parts of the world. The 1845-49 potato famine related, in large part, to nearly all Irish farmers growing the same species of potato.

The fact that chemical manufacturers like Monsanto own the great majority of seed patents has ominous implications for all global food security.

The main focus of the film is individuals and groups around the world committed to preserving food crop diversity via seed banks, including Vandana Shiva, Andrew Kimbrell, Jane Goodall and Winona LaDuke.

Seed banks are often a primary target during war. Iraq’s seed bank (containing seed species over 2,000 years old) was one of the first targets the US bombed during Operation Enduring Freedom. Likewise during World War II, Hitler sought to firebomb the St Petersburg seed bank. He was thwarted by civilians who camped there overnight to protect it.

Prior to watching this film I was unaware the US government provided their farmers free seeds until Wall Street industrialists figured out a way to profit from seed scarcity. One of the drivers behind the development of hybrid seeds in the late 19th century was a desire to discourage farmers from saving their seeds.**

*The Irish potato famine resulted from infection with a fungus called Phytophthora infestans.

**Seeds from hybrid plants (produced by cross-pollinating plants of different species) are just as likely to show the characteristics of one of the original species as those of the hybrid.

People who belong to a public library can view the full film free on Beamafilm.


Robbing From Nature and People to Produce Profit


Eco Social Justice on the Global Frontlines

Vendana Shiva (2017)

The following is a compelling Earth Day presentation by Indian activist Vendana Shiva linking ecocide and genocide to the brutal “free market” drive to rob from nature and people to produce profit.  This wide ranging talk combines a unique perspective on the violent British colonization of both India and North America, the more recent role of major chemical and food companies (eg Dow, Dupont and Monsanto) in imposing free trade treaties such as GATT and the TPP, and the growing anti-corporate resistance movement in India and elsewhere.

Vendana begins by describing an agricultural conference she attended in 1987, at which the major chemical manufacturers laid out plans to increase their profits by introducing GMO seeds and lobbying for laws and treaties that would prohibit seed saving by farmers. She goes on to talk about Navdanya, the nonprofit organization she founded in 1984 to resist the so-called “Green Revolution” that imposed industrial farming on Indian farmers. In promoting seed saving and other traditional organic farming methods, Navdanya was influenced by Gandhi’s use of sustainable self-reliance as a weapon against colonialism.

At the 1987 conference, the chemical companies bragged the entire world would be growing GMO crops by 2000. Thanks to strong global citizens movements, this never happened. Ninety percent of the world’s food is GMO-free, thanks to wholesale rejection of this technology in Europe, Africa and Asia. Likewise only 30% of the world’s food production is industrialized.

Vendana maintains the primary purpose of industrial farming isn’t to produce food but to increase profit. Due to the massive energy input it requires, factory farming is an extremely inefficient method of food production. Traditional farms producing a diversity of crops will always provide more nutritional output than an industrial farm producing a single monoculture crop.

She blames the forced introduction of industrial farming for India’s high level of malnutrition – 1/4 of the general population and 1/2 of Indian children lack adequate nutrients in their diet.

*GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) was the international treaty that created the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 (under President Bill Clinto)n.