Dir.: Jon Betz, Taggart Siegel; Documentary; USA 2016, 94 min.
The past 50 years has not only seen the emergence of genetically modified crops, but also the disappearance of 94 percent of plant seed varieties of common vegetables. In their rather dry but informative eco documentary Jon Betz and Taggart Siegel meet up with the organic farmers, who have tried to reverse the trend of the last half century and save the final 6 percent.
The wider the variety available, the greater chance there is of survival should disease or virus strike a particular plant or vegetable. Just as there are animal conservationists so there are plant conservationists and defendersof organic purity such as Bill Bonsall of the ‘Scatterseed’ project, a bearded hippy, who sees himself as a re-incarnation of Noah. Bill is eager to save all the seeds he can lay his hands on. He hopes, that in the event of a fire, he would first try to save his family, but is convinced, that he would look after his beloved seed collection first.
A visit to ‘Svalbard’ the famous ‘Frozen Garden of Eden’ in Norway, is followed by an excursion to Navdanya in India, where the co-founder of the seed project, Vandana Shiva, compares their work with Ghandi’s struggle. Also interviewed is Joe Simox, who travels the whole planet in search for new seeds, because “the whole planet is unhinged”. On the Hawaiian’ island of Kanai, the bio-tech company Dow is fought by the community, for trying to introduce genetically modified crops; and Monsanto, another company accused of using pesticides for their crops, is taken to court all over the USA.
There are original shots of seeds, spring to light suddenly in time lapse sequences, the eeriness of some of the huge seed banks evoke a rather other-worldliness of the whole process. But we should not be fooled by the of bizarre defenders of organic purity: modern laboratories might come up with new cures for different strains of cancer all the time, but herbal food and remedies helped the developing Homo Sapiens to survive ice, plagues and floods. AS
SCREENING AT BERTHA DOCHOUSE | Curzon Bloomsbury London