Seeds? I thought I knew the whole story: GMOs, Monsanto, the massive Norwegian seed bank. Yet there’s so much more including the true diversity of seeds, the beauty, their essentialness, their history through hybridization, the extinction of strains, and the little-known living seed saver movement. Seed: The Untold Story unveils the seed story in spritely never-a-dull moment documentary.
Seed: The Untold Story compiles compelling HD footage of seeds, fields, and passionate testimonials, accompanied by a vibrational soundtrack and clever animation. The film focuses on mostly unknown individuals sharing their stories from around the world from locations including New Zealand, Hawaii, India, Mexico. The film shares the universal refrain, as put by one seed collector, “Genetic diversity is the hedge between us and global famine.”
From aging hippies, to American Indians, renegade seed hunters, farmers and scientists, the people in the film all share their affinity for the beauty (physical and metaphysical) of seeds. Seeds tells the story of many farmers who began saving seeds in past decades out of intuition in their barns; over time, their collections have grown to become serious seed banks. These seeds are vital in light the threat of climate change, monoculture crops, and war.
One situation highlighted in the film takes place in Hawaii, where native cultural ideals are historically tied to giving back to the land. A local community of activists took action against biotech corporations when the corporate testing of chemicals on dormant corporate sugar cane fields negatively affected the health of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Co-director Jon Betz says, “This film is about the clash between the two ways of looking at seeds, two different cultures: the modern farming seed paradigm and the seed saving paradigm of self-sufficient farmers controlling their own destinies.”
From the beginning of history, seeds have been (and still are) essential to civilization; they have long been traded as commodities. Seeds are sacred to Native Americans, groups of people who speak “the language of the seeds” and have been the stewards of seeds over time. As one indigenous farmer says, “Once our corns get contaminated by GMOs, there is no way to breed it out. The only safe thing to do is incinerate it; it’s now in the DNA.”
International seed banks serve various functions. In India, Monsanto bought up seed companies and distributed their patented single-year seeds on a massive scale. After years of subjugation, farmers started privately collecting seeds. There are now 110 community seed banks in India, called “seeds of hope,” which provide an alternative to the practice of locking the farmers into a cycle of continual debt to the seed monopolies.
Seed: The Untold Story (Directed by Jon Betz and Taggart Siegel. Collective Eye Films) plays in LA at Laemmle Monica Film Center from September 30 – October 6, with the filmmakers in attendance at select screenings. seedthemovie.com