Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Food matters

     Seeds of Time (2013) Documentary that follows Cary Fowler as he travels round the world  as part of a world-wide seed-saving project. He was one of the instigators of the Svalbard Seed Vault. His message is simple: industrialised agriculture has brought about a sharp decline in crop diversity just when climate change has raised the need for genetic diversity so that crops can be adapted to changing conditions. Besides Svalbard, a project to preserve potato diversity in Peru gets central billing. There are also scenes of conferences, graphics illustrating the loss of seed banks, and so on. This is one of those slow-moving crises that people will ignore until it’s too late.
      Besides the Peruvian potato saving project, the film includes examples of seed saving by gardeners and other projects designed to preserve and increase diversify. Some of the repetitive bits could have been cut to provide more room for gardening, which in pure energy terms is the most efficient method of growing food.
     Unlike industrialised agriculture, a garden multiplies energy. The efficiency of agribusiness is an illusion limited to money. In terms of resources, it’s highly inefficient, because the externals aren’t priced. Gardening is labour intensive, but we get more food energy out of a garden than we put into it. Good thing too, or our ancestors, couldn’t have survived by preserving garden produce for the long cold winter. We subsidise agri-business by underpricing oil, which means we exchange the future of the planet for the present freedom from labour.
     A film both depressing and hopeful, relentlessly earnest, but necessary. Grow beans in your backyard even if you don’t watch it. ***

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