Tags: food security, GMO, organic, seed patent
Recently I saw the film Seed: The Untold Story. While I was familiar with the presented issues, I wasn’t aware of just how extensive they were.
For example, did you know that 94% of seed diversity was lost in the last century? Some countries have made it illegal to collect heritage seeds, saying they need to “maintain the quality” (monopoly) of commercial stocks. And yet history has repeatedly shown us the hazards of widespread use of the same crop. Mono-crops can be compromised or wiped out by easily spread disease.
A more recent development is seed patents. Make a few small changes and you can own the seed stock. Farmers are not allowed to collect seeds or the seeds produce only one crop, obliging them to buy seeds again every year. Those seeds are often dependent on chemical sprays and again encourage mono-crops.
Thousands of farmers in India were convinced to borrow to buy seed they formerly harvested themselves. They got a crop they couldn’t renew and often failed, bankrupting them and causing over 250,000 suicides.
Thousands of small seed companies have been bought up by chemical companies which now control 2/3 of the global market. In other words, our food supply has become very dependent on international chemical corporations. The same ones who are patenting seeds.
The “small changes” that allow patenting seeds often take the form of genetic modification. Unlike our long history of culturing plant qualities through selective breeding, Genetically Modified (GMO) foods have directly altered DNA, often by adding features from other species. They’ve added fish DNA into tomatoes, for example. Those foods are then put on the market, untested. Some crops like corn and soy are almost all GMO, both of which are widely used in packaged food.
Scientific research is beginning to show correlations between GMO food consumption, cancer, and other health issues. Our dinner tables have become a laboratory for testing GMO. Unlike the also present pesticide residues, GMO cannot be washed off.
As pollination doesn’t recognize farm boundaries, nearby fields get contaminated. The seed owners can successfully sue farmers for using patented plants they didn’t plant. And the supply of non-GMO seeds gets further compromised, again moving towards mono-crops.
Yet the film is not dominated by a doomsday message. They also cover solutions and highlight people who are saving seed diversity for future generations. And happily, governments are slowly legislating GMO labeling so consumers can make informed choices.
Western Canada has a well-developed seed-sharing community.