These Small Farmers Just Might Save Our Global Food Supply

A new PBS documentary offers a unique look at a growing seed diversity crisis. There’s a global community preserving our food supply that often gets little to no credit....
A new PBS documentary offers a unique look at a growing seed diversity crisis.

There’s a global community preserving our food supply that often gets little to no credit. Now the small farmers behind this extraordinary effort are the subject of a new documentary airing on PBS this April.

Aptly titled “Seed: An Untold Story,” the new film from Emmy-nominated directors Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz explores the seed diversity crisis through the eyes of farmers, scientists and indigenous communities.

According to the Calumet Quarter at the University of Chicago, “Without a strong base of diverse seeds, food production is threatened by disease and climate change.”

Only six percent of the seed varieties from the past century remain. Small farmers hold the key to producing the world’s most diverse food crops, and up to three-quarters of its seeds. One such defender of our vanishing supply is a seed saver from Ranchi, India, named Suman Khulko.

“My mother had no interest in saving seeds, so I would hide the seeds from my mother,” Khulko jokes in the film.

Khulko has urged her family to stay away from the chemical fertilisers popular in India since the 1960’s.

“We were told if we used chemicals our farming would be better,” she explains. “My brother saw farmers using chemicals and making more money. He said to me ‘We will do chemical farming.’ I said “Dont use chemicals,’ but he didn’t listen.”

“In India, where farmers are lured into contracts with seed and chemical companies like Monsanto, thousands of cotton farmers have reportedly committed suicide for failure to meet anticipated yields, leaving them indebted and disgraced,” Organic Authority reports.

As Khulko reveals, his uncle was one of them.

“Seed: An Untold Story” premieres April 17 on PBS.

Watch: “Seed: An Untold Story”: Exclusive Clip:

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.