Patents and Seed: A Short Review of Seeds of Freedom
The film Seeds of Freedom is a short documentary examining the impact of changing conceptions of seed from traditional farming systems through industrialization and genetic modification. Coming in at just 30 minutes, the film offers a powerful critique of industrial agriculture and its control over the seed. It also boasts an all-star cast, incorporating interviews from traditional farmers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America as well as international experts like Vandana Shiva of Navdanya, Henk Hobbelink of GRAIN, Zac Goldsmith (Conservative MP, Britain), Canadian farmer Percy Scmeiser, Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace, Gathuru Mburu of the African Biodiversity Network, Liz Hoskin of the Gaia Foundation, and Caroline Lucas (Green MP, Britain).
The strength of the film really centers on its exploration of the impact of the transition from an emphasis son seed sharing and the local exchange of seed knowledge to a system of private control over the seed through patents and intellectual property law. The film also effectively tackles the myth of market-based agricultural technology tackling world hunger. As Zac Goldsmith, Conservative British MP and Former Environmental Advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron, observed “This has nothing to do with feeding the world…It’s about control of the food sector and the food economy.” Liz Hosken, Director of The Gaia Foundation echoed Goldsmith’s observation, concluding that “By controlling the seed, you control the farmer. By controlling the farmer, you control the whole food system. And that is the legacy of genetics in farming.”
The film is easily one of the best I’ve seen in the area of global food politics, presenting a thoughtful critique of the limits of the contemporary food system and concluding with a powerful call to action centered on a thoughtful public dialogue to consider the kind of food system we want.
And as we have this dialogue, it’s important to remember that small-scale, argoecological farming (often dismissed as “traditional” farming systems) feeds 70 percent of the world’s population, using less land, less water, and fewer resources, growing health food and nurturing greater crop diversity. Traditional farms protect water and soil health, and are more resilient in the face of climate change than industrial agriculture. These are the real sustainable farming systems.