Seeds of change and controversy

A white plate with flower and herb seeds.

Sweet pea (left) and Cilantro (right) seeds, photographed March, 2017.

Do the seeds we use to grow vegetables have an untold story? In a new video documentary presented by TVO, the “battle for the future of our seeds” is presented with fascinating viewpoints that certainly aren’t mainstream. But this collection of personal stories from a wide variety of impassioned people–from “the Noah of the seed world” and a molecular biologist to a wildly enthusiastic botanical explorer, Native American farmers and the renowned Dr. Jane Goodall–does reveal new perspectives on our 12,000-year-old food legacy and the possibility of a global food crisis.

LESS IS NOT MORE

Some of the statistics are sobering: “We lost 94 percent of our vegetable seed varieties in the 20th century. The last study to count US seed diversity was conducted in 1983. There were 544 cabbage varieties. 28 varieties remained. 158 varieties of cauliflower. 9 remained. 55 varieties of kohlrabi. 3 remained. 34 varieties of artichoke. 2 remained. 288 varieties of beets. 17 remained.”

Of the following vegetables, 90% or more of their varieties have been lost:

  • asparagus
  • red pepper
  • corn
  • celery
  • red onion
  • radish
  • watermelon
  • cucumber
  • eggplant

NOT WITHOUT CONTROVERSY

The contention that hybrid plants were “invented” specifically for the profit of a few agricultural corporations because the seeds of the plants can’t be saved is, of course, visited with particular enthusiasm. Whether you’re a believer of certain conspiracy theories or not, this sumptuously filmed hour-long documentary is worth a viewing. It’s certainly inspired me to make more of an effort to search out heirloom seeds and take another look at that time-honoured spring tradition–the seed swap.

But hurry. Free viewing of this video is only available until April 9th: http://tvo.org/video/documentaries/seed-the-untold-story

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