The voices that feature in the Seeds of Freedom trilogy are environmentalists, government representatives, food advocates and farmers. Here is a sampling of their key quotes from the film.
Dr Vandana Shiva, Physicist and internationally renowed activitst
“Once a company starts to see royalty collections from every seed, it pushes its genetically engineered crops, to replace the native crops that farmers and peasants have grown over millennia.
“To put in a gene for herbicide resistance: you now have a monopoly on the chemical, as well as on the seed which is married to the chemical. It’s because genetic engineering is being brought to us by the old agrochemical industry, which is interested in maintaining its agrochemical sales of herbicides and pesticides, while also establishing a monopoly control of the seed – that genetic engineering has gone in the totally wrong direction as far as agriculture is concerned.”
“We need to decentralise our food system, and if we need to decentralise our food system, decentralise seed provisioning. Seed sovereignty must become very central to food sovereignty.”
John Vidal, Environment Editor, The Guardian
“They are chemical companies first, but they are seed companies second. If you can control the seed, you control the profit from growing food.”
Dr Melaku Worrede, Ethiopian plant geneticist and Right Livelihood award winner
“With the loss of diversity you lose your security. Because, diversity is synonymous with security. It also means improved livelihood. It means improved nutrition. It means improved division of labour. All this would be lost to one crop.”
Chief Vhutanda. Local Chief and traditional farmer from the Venda region of South Africa
“We plant seeds to welcome new life. When a boy becomes a man we shower him with seeds. And when a person dies we plant seeds on their grave. Our indigenous seed builds towards the future. Because you don’t plant it alone, and leave others starving. You plant it together and share it.”
Norman, Elder and traditional farmer from Karima in Kenya
“Our traditional crops are good for eating, whilst the modern crops can be exported. But we can’t eat coffee.”
Liz Hosken, Founder and Director of The Gaia Foundation
“By controlling the seed you control the farmer. By controlling the farmer you control the whole food system. And that’s the legacy of genetics in farming”.
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and leader of the Green Party of England & Wales
“The real concern is that there is an increasing corporate control of the seed chain, and increasingly that means that a very small number of people, are having a massive influence over the way in which farmers are able to farm. Traditional practices of saving seed are now under threat, and what that does essentially, is to put corporate profit ahead of the ability of farmers to feed themselves and their communities.”
I don’t think the public should ever underestimate the potential power that they have should they choose to use it. Who’d have thought that Murdoch’s empire could be brought down? I think if we have a much bigger public debate around the kinds of agriculture we want and the kind of practices and techniques of some of those big seed corporations, we might just get that same degree of outrage, and hopefully a system in the long term, that is better for people, and the planet.”
Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP and long-standing environmentalist
“You create a monopoly when you’re providing the seeds which have been engineered to be resistant to the pesticides that are used on those seeds. The net effect of that, is that we’re seeing a vastly increased use of pesticides, which is one of the things that GM was supposed to be tackling.
So it’s nothing to do with feeding the world. It’s nothing to do with tackling some of these huge issues we’re facing today. It’s about control of the food sector, of the food economy.”
Henk Hobbelink, Coordinator of GRAIN International
“We have to realise that diversity means survival. Diversity means being able to continue to produce. Being able to continue to be a farmer. And without that I think it’s very important to realise that we’re simply not going to be able to produce the food that we need if we allow that this kind of diversity is further eroded.”
Voices from the film
Vandana Shiva is a physicist and internationally renowned activist. Her work highlights the fundamental connection between human rights and the protection of the environment. Dr Shiva, currently based in Delhi, has authored more than 20 books including Soil Not Oil and the 2011 report The GM Emperor Has No Clothes. She was trained as a physicist and received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She is one of the leaders and board members of the International Forum on Globalization, and a figure of the global solidarity movement known as the Alter-Globalization Movement. She has argued for the wisdom of many traditional practices that draw upon India’s Vedic heritage. Dr Shiva was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1993. Shiva’s international organization Navdanya, is a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India.
Dr Melaku Worede is founder of the Ethiopian Gene Bank, the first and only gene bank dedicated to the priorities of small-farmers. An Ethiopian plant geneticist, Dr Worede has been a pioneer in shifting perceptions and attitudes globally towards recognising the vital importance of on-farm diversity as a strategy to increase and conserve biodiversity. He received a right livelihood award for preserving Ethiopia’s genetic wealth.
Henk is an agronomist by training. In the 1980s he worked with farmers in Peru on sustainable pest management and after that he worked with Dutch and European NGOs drawing attention to the importance of agricultural biodiversity for the future of farming. In 1990, he co-founded GRAIN and over the past two decades has helped the organisation grow into an international collective that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems. Henk is the coordinator of GRAIN, and as such is responsible for the overall functioning of the organisation as well as conducting research, writing and outreach activities. GRAIN won the Right Livelihood Award in 2011.
Caroline is the MP for Brighton Pavilion and leader of the Green Party of England & Wales. She is the UK’s only Green MP. A passionate campaigner on the environment, social justice and human rights, Caroline was voted the UK’s Most Ethical Politician in 2007, 2009 and 2010 by Observer readers, and is one of the Environment Agency’s Top 100 Eco-Heroes.
Zac Goldsmith is a British Conservative Party politician, environmental journalist, and entrepreneur, who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Richmond Park since 2010. From 1998 to 2007, Zac was editor of The Ecologist magazine. During this time, he became a London campaigner and commentator on environmental issues including climate change, GM food and pesticides. In between his work with The Ecologist and the Conservative Party, Zac raises funds for groups around the world dealing with a broad range of environmental and conservation issues. In September 2009, Zac’s book, The Constant Economy, was released. It looks at the key environmental problems we face, and provides a workable programme for action.
John Vidal is the Guardian’s Environment Editor. He joined the paper in 1995. He is the author of McLibel: Burger Culture on Trial (1998) and has contributed chapters to books on topics such as the Gulf war, new Europe and development.
Ramon Vera Herrera
Ramón Vera joined GRAIN in 2009. He is the overall editor of Biodiversidad, a quarterly magazine produced in collaboration with 10 partners in the region. He also works actively with the rest of GRAIN’s Latin America team in advancing our programme in the region. In addition, he edits the Mexican monthly Ojarasca, translates international writers for the Mexican newspaper La Jornada and is actively involved in the struggles of indigenous peasants in his country.
Percy Schmeiser is a farmer from Bruno, Saskatchewan, Canada. He specializes in breeding and growing canola. He became an international symbol and spokesperson for independent farmers’ rights and the regulation of transgenic crops during his protracted legal battle with agrichemical company Monsanto Company. He was the subject of the 1999 film David Versus Monsanto.