seeds of freedom

Most of my blog posts are about traditional woodworking and traditional crafts but I am also passionately interested in traditional agriculture globally and locally. Perhaps surprisingly  only 30% of the worlds food is produced by the industrialised farming methods we are so familiar with in the developed West, this system is designed to work with large acreages of land under monoculture, very few people working the land, lots of machines and lots of chemical input. It is a very efficient way of making money for large corporations.

70% of the worlds food is produced by small independent farmers growing a diverse range of local varieties of crops, this provides useful work for many people, the genetic diversity is our best protection against variable climate but it does not produce profit for large corporations. This system is under threat. The large Western corporations would like the 70% to buy their seed and chemicals. There is worldwide resistance to this yet still the UK Government just committed £100 Million to developing GM.

What is remarkable is not that GM crops have, after 20 years and so much money spent, now reached 19 out of more than 150 developing countries, but that most nations have managed to keep out a rapacious industry” good article

This 30 minute film gives a good overview of what is happening right now.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/43879272 w=500&h=281]

I am not really one for Biblical quotes but seed saving is so deep in our culture that to make seed saving a criminal offence is to me a crime in itself.

Genesis 1;12 “The Earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to it’s kind. And God saw that it was good.”

and on the 8th day Monsanto patented seed and prosecuted anyone that saved their the seed so that they could become rich.

If we go that route it really can’t end well.

More info on seeds of freedom here

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7 Responses to seeds of freedom

  1. Marshal January 10, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    One can never learn enough! I know a great deal about USA agriculture and African cocoa production but very little about Indian Agriculture. Appreciate the insights and perspective!My father is 75 year old farmer who thinks he is 25. He always saved his seed every year expect when you wanted to buy better new varieties of wheat/corn/soybeans. He told me prior to GM seeds he used 4-6 treatments of nasty chemicals each year for bugs, weeds, and disease. However, with GM seeds he now uses one small application and his chemical usage is down 80% post GM. So Monsanto, Bayer, etc companies chemical sales fell badly and to protect their intellectual property/pay for the GM technology they do not allow re-use of seed. He said he does not like that, but it is much better then using all the chemical.From his perspective… GM seeds are the best thing that ever happened to agriculture. However, his prospective is "production agriculture" and shipping large quantities from regions of surplus to regions of shortage.I suspect… impact of GM in USA is different impact to India as the ag practices/cultures differ?

  2. Robin Wood January 10, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    Thanks for that Marshal, first hand experience is always of value. If your fathers farm is typical he will have seen an initial significant drop (28%)in insecticide use if growing BT cotton or corn but there has been a very significant rise in herbicide use. This Reuters article http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/02/us-usa-study-pesticides-idUSBRE89100X20121002gives stats on US Herbicide use on GM crops grown from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to about 90 million pounds in 2011. US farmers are in a good position to weigh up the pros and cons themselves, illiterate farmers in developing countries less so.

  3. Marshal January 10, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    I struggled with increased chemical usage. I only know my personal experience. With YC/YSB for the 15 years I worked as a labor on the farm… we used a pre-emergent chemical when tilling the soil in the Spring… that has been eliminated. The application equipment was sold 2 decades ago. Then we applied two post emergent applications with multiple chemicals… I did the mixing/hauled the water. Lastly with YSB you had to spray for white mold or aphides(spelling). Which amounted to potentially 1-2 more applications.Today my father applies one application of glyphosate. Sold on the shelf of every hardware and garden shop in the USA. Chemical usage my be up some where, but it is significantly reduced in the heart of the US production agriculture system. My perspective is very limited. What frustrates me the developing countries or all countries is the businesses (large & small/local & foriegn) involved in those supply chains who do not have responsible supply chains. I very much dislike McDonalds… but I see them driving all their business partners to ensure the supply chains are sustainable, moral, and ethical. The supply chains cannot start at their loading dock. It must go all the way back to the raw material suppliers.Moral companies educate the small stakeholder so they can prosper and raise the living conditions for their families!

  4. daniel January 10, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    Would be interesting with a source on that 30%. URL?

  5. Robin Wood January 10, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    Daniel 30% was a quote from the film, I am sure it is an impossible thing to measure since much of the world's food is not traded on the open market. I could believe 30% or 40% but not 50% produced by industrial farming, if we take most of Africa and China alone that accounts for a huge proportion of the worlds population feeding themselves using traditional rather than modern industrial farming. There are 7 Billion on this planet of these less than 2 billion live in the industrialised West we tend to forget how everyone else lives.

  6. daniel January 10, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    Sorry, missed that :-/The odd thing though is to count non-western countries since they're progressing towards being like the west (or WANT TO at least). Being industrialized isn't really an option there, so one should deduct them.If 30% of food for 7bn people is made from industrialized methods, then that would be about 2bn.Can one count like that, hm?

  7. Luc January 11, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    Hi Robin, thank you for sharing this. I've already seen a documentary on Monsanto in the past, but I feel this one is better and shorter.I think there is a big difference between growing food for your community versus growing seeds for oil, fuel production or livestock. It is a bit too easy from our side to say that GM seeds give better results. This film shows us clearly that most of the world's farmers do not benefit from them.

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