by Callie

Seeds: Big Story, Big Screen

Every gardener will tell you that seeds are a beautiful, magical, and very exciting. Seed shopping is a marvelous thing. So many options, intriguing new crops to try out… and one must select only a few, because there is only so much space for growing. And yet, we have lost most of the diversity in edible crop seeds available in 1903. This discovery inspired the concept of an entire movie about seed. Could something so ordinary carry a starring role?

The avid backyard grower will gasp at the idea of having to make decisions if faced with over 90% more fruit and vegetable selections to choose from, but that’s how much is missing. Open source seeds whose traits were created by pollinators, environmental conditions, and farmers down through the ages. Treasured varieties people shared, traded, and passed down from generation to generation. The seed from each of them could be saved to grow the same harvest over again – year in, and year out.

The story of those seeds, and what happened to them is huge. They didn’t die off due to inferiority. Many of them are still out there, but seemingly missing from action. Seed savers around the world still have hundreds of diverse seeds in many crop types in their collections. They preserve them with dedication, but they are no longer available in the mainstream.

Some people are aware of this, but many are not. Where did they come from, and why are they gone? The saga that spans thousands of years has been documented in a new feature length film, Seeds: The Untold Story. It covers the ancient development of seeds all the way through the issues surrounding us today. Unlike other recent documentaries that have covered the problem of industrial farming, and the corporate players like Monsanto, this one focuses entirely on the seed.

They were quietly removed from the market. Replaced by fewer seed types with new and improved proprietary traits that could be trademarked, registered, and in the past few decades – patented. From a business standpoint, there’s no continual, ever-increasing revenue stream in seeds that people can save. Excellent sales numbers are impossible on a product when the market is flooded with an excessive amount of competition. It’s a lot easier to maintain fewer seed crops, and a lot more profitable. And so we have limited choices for garden and farm seed, fewer than ever before in the history of growing food. This places humanity in a precarious position.

Were you aware that the cause of the Great Famine in Ireland was total lack of seed diversity? Everyone grew potatoes from one type of seed. It allowed disease to run rampant through an entire country. Thousands starved to death over the span of 6 years due to monocropping. There was nothing else to plant. Yet, if they had grown a variety of potatoes, and more than one crop type, there would not have been such suffering and devastation. But the seed was cheap, and the crop was easy to grow. Potatoes became the staple food of an entire nation. Sound familiar?

“Without seed diversity, crop diseases rise and empires fall.” — seedthemovie.com

It is said that agriculture has progressed in leaps and bounds, and yet here we are 130 years later, none the wiser. What happened in Ireland was due to a lack of knowledge, this time monoculture is purposefully created in the pursuit of massive profit and market dominance. Instead of greater diversity, we have less, and the seeds cannot be saved. The entire food system worldwide rests on a few F1 hybrids, genetic modification, and massive monoculture growing with pesticides to cure all their ills. Money makers for scientists, seed conglomerates, chemical companies, industrial farming, attorneys, lobbyists, and investors – but a highly unsustainable way of growing food, fiber, and fuel. Not to mention being damaging the environment, and endangering people’s health. Furthermore, its setting the global population up for unforeseen travails.

The missing seeds aren’t really gone.

They’re locked away in seed vaults under guard. The gene giants control many of them. Where do you suppose those traits come from that Bayer bought Monsanto for? Monsanto and its subsidiaries own or control almost 30% of the global seed supply, and currently, just 10 corporations control 2/3 of the world’s seeds.

If it weren’t for seeds that could be saved… the population of Earth would be a mere fraction of what it is today. Seeds are what allowed civilization to prosper. For example, in the 1890s, the US government gave everyone all the seeds they wanted for growing food to sustain the family, and their livestock. Over a billion packages of free seed! It made the possibility of immigrant and settler survival more likely. Naturally, this didn’t sit well with the seed houses. They invented lobbying to convince Washington that seed should be a product, and a stock market commodity. Now they lobby governments globally to protect the income stream their genetically modified seeds created. The war waged on anyone threatening to upset the apple cart made GMOs the most widely grown crops in the world.

Should it all came to a screeching halt – how would the world’s population survive without the incredible crop diversity we once had? Monoculture has important foods like oranges, bananas, coconut, and coffee poised on the edge of global crop failure. Luckily, there are people who started collecting seeds from all over the world several decades ago. If it weren’t for the seed savers, we would have no heirloom tomatoes and open-pollinated vegetables at all. You’ll meet some of them in this film, and get a look at just how beautiful pure seed can be.

The importance of restoring seed diversity has started a movement that is big enough to start shifting the balance. It’s a growing group of community gardeners, young farmers, and seed libraries that spans the planet. Food quality, seed sovereignty, and sustainability drive them all. Seed: The Untold Story covers that too.

“A David and Goliath battle is underway, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.”

Award-winning directors and producers, Taggert Siegel and Jon Betz, traveled far and wide collecting the hidden story of seed. They’ve talked to seed savers, farmers, scientists, and indigenous communities. They knew the finished film would attract a lot of interest, but the initial response literally blew them away. It’s a career record-breaker. The world wants to know everything about seed and diversity. The audience will grow to include everyone who’s concerned about the state of food.

By the date of the first showing in New York City on September 23rd, over 1 million viewed the latest trailer on the movie’s website. The screening schedule lists an incredible number of showings at theaters all over the US, in select cities in Canada, and the UK. They continue to multiply. More international engagements in other countries the works. Eventually, it will come out on DVD for home viewing.

Learn more about the movie, and where you can see it on the website. If it’s not showing in your area, you can start a group interested in a local viewing through GATHR on the Screening page. www.seedthemovie.com

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Only strangers knock on the door at Callie's house. People who know her don't bother if the sun is shining - they know to look in the garden.