21 June 2012

"Seeds of Freedom" - the truth about seed, African famine and big agri-businesses

Global agriculture has changed more in our lifetimes than in the previous 10,000 years. But as with all change, conflicts of interest have arisen. Nowhere is this conflict more poignant than in the story of seed. A new film from the African Biodiversity Network (ABN) and the Gaia Foundation, narrated by actor Jeremy Irons, explodes pervasive myths about agriculture, development and Africa's ability to feed herself.

At the heart of the film Seeds of Freedom is the story of seed and its transformation into the property of agri-business. Africa is under growing pressure to turn to hybrid seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Only last month, President Obama launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which will see the combined forces of agribusiness giants Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, DuPont and Yara investing $3 billion into creating new markets in Africa, amidst nonsensical claims that this will solve hunger and malnutrition.

The enormous wealth and diversity of locally-adapted seeds and farmer knowledge is ignored, undermined and eroded by policy makers. Increasing biological and agricultural diversity has been at the centre of food production, culture and spirituality for every traditional culture on earth, since the beginning of human history. 70% of the world's food still comes from small, diverse, mostly organic farms - although you wouldn't know it from listening to politicians and big agri-business.

Those small farmers and our ancestors had good reasons: they knew that greater diversity in their crops gave them better nutrition and resilience to the many challenges of farming, from weather, pests and soil variations. As Muhammed, a traditional farmer from Ethiopia says in the film: "Seed is our life. Our livelihoods depend on it. One variety is not enough for us. If we lose that, we are lost."

See here for the trailer for Seeds of Freedom: