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.