(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: SEED: THE UNTOLD STORY educates the viewer about the importance of seeds to stave off famine. It foretells the coming seed crisis with the loss of biodiversity in our varieties of fruits and vegetables. There are serious threats to that biodiversity as mega-corporations genetically modify plants and are allowed to patent and own plant varieties. They are getting dangerous control of our food supply. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

The international diversity of seeds almost by itself saves us from having famine. The Irish potato blight happened because the Irish depended so much on one variety of potato. When it was hit with fungus, the fields of potato essential to the local diet became useless mush. When the famine was over, there were two million people no longer there. In about even numbers a million had migrated to elsewhere and a million remained at home and died of starvation. There was just not another variety of potato to replace the one they had lost. Plant diversity is extremely important. Our modern society is also dependent on fewer and fewer varieties of plants. For each 25 varieties of vegetable seed alive at the beginning of the last century, only one is left alive. The multiplicity of vegetable varieties is being lost.

SEED: THE UNTOLD STORY is a report on why the many vegetable seed varieties are so important to us and an account of the loss of diversity, who is working to save seed, and what threats are sweeping down on important crops from climate change, genetic modification, and the legal recognition of plant genetic modification and patenting. Mega-corporations like Bayer and Monsanto control the seed crop and pesticides required to be used with the genetically modified crops so that the source of seeds cannot be from the previous year's crop and has to be from the corporation.

Perhaps the narrative could have used some fine-tuning. The filmmakers start with lore of the seeds and of seed culture. They seem overly concerned with creating a pretty film. and they wait too long to get to the most important message, (My wife was waiting to hear about the agricultural crisis, but when the on- screen experts started having people say that the seed is their grandfather she decided instead to go read.) Anthropomorphizing the spirit of the corn seems to me to be of less value than presenting a serious account of the problem. The film should earlier get to a serious and straightforward account of the danger to the food supply. The extent of the problem is discussed in interviews with scientists, farmers, native Americans, and even Jane Goodall. The film is directed by Jon Betz and Taggart Siegel, respectively the producer and director of QUEEN OF THE SUN: WHAT ARE THE BEES TELLING US? That is a beautiful and colorful film that also takes a while to get to its most important subject message. Betz and Siegel see a bleak future with no bees to pollinate plants and without necessary seed varieties.

SEED includes accounts of Monsanto, these days a biotech company that is frequently in court as defendant or plaintiff against farmers. The film gives an account of one farmer who was sued by that company because his crop had been contaminated with a leak of Monsanto's genetically modified seed that had been made resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.

SEED: THE UNTOLD STORY, once it gets to the point, certainly gives and effective case that we are losing control of food production around the world. The filmmakers make a case for how serious the threat is of corporations like Monsanto getting control of our crops. I rate SEED: THE UNTOLD STORY a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. SEED will open in New York on September 23 and Los Angeles on September 30.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper