A key message of the new documentary Seed is that though the human race depends on a few main crops, the biodiversity of the earth is vast and there are many varieties of plants that we have not endeavored to cultivate. This not only dulls our palate, but is also a cause for species and biodiversity loss. Currently, 90% of the world’s seeds are sold by chemical companies like Monsanto. Many are genetically engineered and patented, placing genes from one species into other species, to encourage desirable traits such as increased growth and weather tolerance. But this doesn’t mean they are infallible. In fact, 1.4 billion lbs of pesticides are used globally each year. The film showed a community in Hawaii suffering health effects from pesticide drift on Monsanto test fields. Renowned activist & author Vandana Shiva pointed out that spliced genes may carry viruses with them, and that genetic engineering takes place throughout the food supply though nobody has actually voted for it. The film features a Canadian farmer who was sued by Monsanto for patent infringement, because his field became cross-pollinated with their genetically altered seed. If a farmer buys a company’s seed believing the advertisements that it’s better than the seed he/she saved, and that crop fails, then the next year the farmer has to buy new seed again but may lack funds to do so. In India, 270,000 farmer suicides have been recorded due to debt.
This is why saving seeds of original, heirloom plants is so important. Large seed banks in New Mexico and Norway have been established. The international organization Slow Food maintains the “Arc of Taste” featuring numerous uncommon edible plants from around the world. On Long Island, the LI Regional Seed Consortium hosts an annual seed swap in Riverhead. See www.lirsc.org. The LI “cheese pumpkin” was almost eliminated in favor of other varieties, but several local farmers had saved the original seeds and the cheese pumpkin is making a comeback. One LI farmer, part of the consortium, raises 350 varieties of tomatoes. Many organizations are calling for GMO labelling in the U.S. which is already the law in over 60 other countries. See www.seedthemovie.com and @