"Seeds of Time' is a 77 minute documentary film that was an official selection of the 2014 SXSW Film Festival. Directed by Sandy McLeod, the movie explores the imposing need to protect and preserve the genetic diversity of agricultural seeds and the dire consequences of failing to do so.
Ms. McLeod explains her desire to make this movie in the following way: "Our food system is not sustainable or secure and this is a problem that affects us all. Without sustainable agriculture, we will not have a sustainable future."
The film centers around the work of Dr. Cary Fowler, a leader in the field of crop diversity and preserving this diversity for future generations. Dr. Fowler holds a PhD from the University of Uppsala in Sweden and was previously a professor in the Department for International Environmental and Development Studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Norway. He is currently the director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust in Rome, Italy. The Trust aims to "reinvent a global food system that can last forever."
Humans became agrarian approximately 10,000 years ago. Over this period of time, genetic diversity in crops and seeds developed to produce the crops we grow today. However, this diversity is beginning to disappear due, primarily, to seeds that uniformly produce large crop yields. The United States currently grows only three primary crops-corn, wheat and soy-and the yields are disproportionately used for livestock feed. "In US vegetable crops there is now less than 7% of diversity that existed a century ago."
Dr. Fowler built the world's first global seed vault located in Svalbard Norway, north of the Arctic Circle. He sees this seed vault as an "insurance policy for the crop diversity of the world." However, just preserving genetic seed diversity is not going to be enough for the future. Climate change is an increasingly destructive force in agriculture and we must address that issue as well.
In Peru, a group of indigenous farmers are preserving over 1,500 native varieties of potato and these seeds can be found at the International Potato Center in Lima. However, the future of the seeds is in jeopardy due to climate change influencing where potatoes can adequately grow in the Andes Mountains. Because of increasing heat at lower elevations, the potato farmers have had to keep moving up the mountains to plant their crops. Over the past thirty years, the planting altitude has increase at least 500 ft. What happens when they run out of mountain?
The farmers of the Peruvian 'Potato Park' were the first indigenous group to contribute to Dr. Fowler's vault in Norway. However, as mentioned previously, we have to do more than just save seeds. It is an absolute necessity to adapt to the changing climate across the globe.
"Agriculture is in danger...we need to learn to adapt. If we don't, we'll face catastrophic consequences on a scale you cannot imagine" - Dr. Cary Fowler.
If "Seeds of time" is showing at a theater near you, it is highly recommended. It will inspire you and frighten you but the more people that are aware of this crisis, the more hope there is that we can make a change for our future.