Seed savers

The diversity of seeds, plants and animals is key to securing the capacity for a community to feed itself. The heirloom vegetables and fruits that are on display at the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market are just a small sample of the incredible range of food plants on the planet. However, this diversity is under threat and a recent screening of the film Seed: The Untold Story reveals the battle seed savers are in to safeguard and bank seeds for future generations.

The guardians of the earth’s seed diversity are given centre stage in the documentary screened in Launceston this week. The movie Seed: The Untold Story does not tell a new story but does highlight the battle between lawyers, scientists, small farmers and passionate conservers of seeds and the multinational biotech companies of the industrialised agricultural systems.

With 94% of the world’s seed diversity already extinct, the film paints a bleak view of the future in a world without the diversity in its seeds stores to battle any diseases, pests and threats to crops. The industrialised food systems have already created havoc, and continue do so with sympathetic and former employers of multination biotech companies firmly entrenched in decision making bodies and governments. The film tells the story of increasing ill health in communities living alongside open air pesticide laboratories, the staggering suicide rates of Indian farmers who were converted to hybrid genetically modified seeds that locked them into a debt spiral and is a call to action to stop the planets remaining biodiversity from becoming more commodified or made extinct through war, climate change and acquisition through genetic modification and patents.

The film by award winning filmmakers Taggart Siegel and John Betz explores the 12,000-year-old seed legacy and together with some quirky animation explores the varied world of seeds which are likened to jewels in a garden of Eden.

Taking us on a journey from the seed vault in the icy tundra of Norway to a container in the desert in New Mexico, the film tells the story of the dedicated seed conservers who are committed to saving the remaining six percent of the world’s native seeds.

There is Suman a young Indian woman who rejects the hybrid seeds peddled by big business to embrace farming the way her community has done for generations. Vanda Shiva, Indian scholar, environmental activist and sharer of seed, compares her battle to saving seeds and the indigenous farming practices of India, to the cloth weaving campaign of resistance undertaken by Ghandi. The seed she says “will be the spinning wheel of our times”.

Jars of seeds of all sizes, shapes and colours are stored in the farm barns, rooms, trailers and containers by men and women who are dedicated to ensuring there will be seeds for future generations. They are all passionate: one sees himself as a Noah filling his ark with seeds of all types, another is seed obsessed botanical explorer Joe Simcox who travels the globe collecting and preserving seeds. Scientist Jane Goodall speaks of the magic of seeds, how they spread, survive and grow while the film makers bring that glorious magic of seeds springing to life, to the screen. All speak to the vulnerability of their seed vaults, their fears that without seed there is no freedom.

For more information about Seed: The Untold Story or to download the film, visit: www.seedthemovie.com.