Seeds of Freedom
Review by Tom Lawson
Seeds of Freedom charts humanity’s relationship with seed, from the humble beginnings of agriculture to present day industrial-scale food production and the resulting decline of biodiversity, community traditions and farmers’ rights. The documentary looks at how seed has changed from a resource for farmers to save and nurture, to a commodity that can be owned, modified and profited from by multinational companies.
Despite the broad overall theme, the film’s main target is clearly the issue of genetically modified (GM) food. The film’s release comes at a poignant time, following protests at a GM crop trial site in Hertfordshire in May and a subsequent resurgence of press coverage and debate on the issue.
“We wanted to make a film that gave the south a global voice against GM. Farmers are shouting ‘no’, but their voices are being drowned out,” says Gathuru Mburu of the African Biodiversity Network. “GM technology has not been developed to aid farmers or to feed hungry people, it’s to create new markets for patented seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and commodities.”
For those wanting an overview of some of the issues facing the food system and the potential pitfalls of GM, Seeds of Freedom is an excellent starting point and at just 30 minutes long it’s more accessible than most. However, with such a broad spectrum of issues covered in such a short time, the film often struggles to go into much depth and it could easily have been two or three times longer.
Seeds of Freedom follows the standard format of interviews mixed with archive material, however some slick and stylishly-shot farming footage does provide some visual treats. The film’s main strength however lies in the words of the prominent experts, politicians and activists who feature throughout, including Vandana Shiva, Henk Hobbelink of GRAIN International and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
Towards the end a more positive perspective is put across with a call for a food system based on rights, diversity and decentralised production and distribution. The film concludes with a comment from Caroline Lucas: “I think that if we have a much bigger public debate around the kinds of agriculture that we want…then we just might get a system that’s better long term for people and the planet.”
Seeds of Freedom could well be an important part of sparking that debate.
Seeds of Freedom is free to watch online and is due for DVD release this year. More information: seedsoffreedom.info