Seeds of Time

This documentary submitted by the USA to the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival explores the challenges and rationale for trying to avert a "disaster in the making" by preserving crop diversity. For example, we depend on only one strain of corn in this country, so an epidemic for that variety would be catastrophic. This "Global Seed Vault" project is funded by the Gates Foundation and other far-sighted institutions. It is also known as the "Doomsday Vault," or "Noah's Ark."

Our host, Cary Fowler, has established an astonishing complex in Norway which tunnels into a frozen mountain and provides an impenetrable storage facility for hundreds of thousands of varieties. Much of his mission is to preserve current seed crops and to have seeds for vegetation that has otherwise become extinct, with an eye toward climate change which may require some of the older strains to be used again. 93% of our domesticated varieties of corn, wheat, potatoes, carrots, peas, tomatoes. etc., have become extinct since 1903.

There are scores of smaller organizations throughout the world, but they are at the mercy of local politics and weather. A good illustration of how dedicated these folks are, was to see a spokeswoman trying to explain through her tears how her project in the Philippines was wiped out by a storm. One of the pioneers of seed preservation lived in Russia. He and his staff actually starved to death during the 900-day Siege of Leningrad rather than eat the seeds.

The potato project in Peru was another good example of how a particular type of food is not only nourishment, but an integral part of a culture, e.g., courtship, marriage, childbirth, etc. When the potato crop began to fail, their concern became so great that neighboring tribes set aside their rivalries and worked together to plant and harvest new strains of potatoes from the Global Seed Vault.

This is just a sample of the interesting bits you will see and hear in this important documentary. BTW, this movie's title is from Shakespeare's Macbeth, "If you can look into the seeds of time and tell which will grow and which will not..."