African farming voices challenge the GM myth – Published on Pambazuka News, by Teresa Anderson, June 14, 2012. “Seeds of Freedom” is online for international audiences – watch and download for free: Seeds of Freedom.
At the heart of the film “Seeds of Freedom” is the story of seed and its transformation from the basis of farming communities’ agriculture to the property of agri-business. Global agriculture has changed more in our lifetime than in the previous 10,000 years. But as with all change, conflicts of interest have arisen. Nowhere is this conflict more poignant than in the story of seed.
A new film from the African Biodiversity Network (ABN) and the Gaia Foundation, narrated by actor Jeremy Irons, is set to explode pervasive myths about agriculture, development and Africa’s ability to feed herself. At the heart of the film “Seeds of Freedom” is the story of seed, and its transformation from the basis of farming communities’ agriculture to the property of agri-business.
Africa is under growing pressure to turn to hybrid seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Only last month, President Obama launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which will see the combined forces of agribusiness giants Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, DuPont and Yara investing $3 billion into creating new markets in Africa, amidst claims that this will solve hunger and malnutrition.
But amidst the pressure to “modernise” agriculture, the enormous wealth and diversity of locally-adapted seeds and farmer knowledge is ignored, undermined and eroded by policy makers. Increasing biological and agricultural diversity has been at the centre of food production, culture and spirituality for every traditional culture on earth, since the beginning of human history. Our ancestors had good reasons: they knew that greater diversity in their crops gave them better nutrition and resilience to the many challenges of farming, from weather, pests and soil variations. As Muhammed, a traditional farmer from Ethiopia says in the film, “Seed is our life. Our livelihoods depend on it. One variety is not enough for us. If we lose that, we are lost.”
“Seeds of Freedom” shows how powerful interests are destroying that diversity, and the resilience and food security that have been bequeathed to humanity by our ancestors. As the global food supply becomes dependent on just a few seed varieties, owned by a handful of corporations, our future is increasingly vulnerable as a result. The film notes that agrochemical fertilisers and pesticides emerged from the development of explosives and nerve agents in two World Wars, and these violent origins underline the contradiction between agribusiness’ message and their actual ethos. What becomes clear is that industrialised and GM agriculture is increasing hunger and malnutrition, not solving it … //
… The 30-minute film is a co-production of the African Biodiversity Network and the Gaia Foundation, in collaboration with local Ethiopian partner MELCA Ethiopia, and international partners Navdanya and GRAIN.