GMOs and Bitter Seeds

By: Mat Roberts

On Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m., the Athena Cinema will screen Bitter Seeds, the final film in Micha X. Peled’s Globalization Trilogy, following Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town and China Blue. Before you see this film, let’s look at the seed.

Once the flagship node of the world’s biodiversity realm, the seed has been forced to a place of manipulation and modification. Back in the day, farmers would save seeds from the summer harvest and prepare to fill their greenhouses upon the first trickle of spring. Though this traditional practice is still used across the globe, we have seen some wild changes to agriculture. The current globalized agriculture system, in partnership with many bio-engineering firms, is changing the definition of food, and many people are starting to get worried.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are changing the way food is grown.  Traditionally, farmers used natural breeding to achieve desired traits. According to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), GMOs are created by shooting genes from a “gene gun” into a plate of cells or by using bacteria to invade the cell with foreign DNA. The altered cell is then cloned into a plant. These genetically modified crops demand heavy use of pesticides and herbicides. This degrades the soil, thus producing a necessary cycle of creating stronger breeds of seeds capable of succeeding in a space nearly void of any other life.

As the industrial agriculture system continues to grow, the farther we seem to be from our evolutionary roots. Small-scale farmers around the globe are being forced to grow GMO crops or perish in the effort to keep up with the production of large-scale farms and the demands of grocers.

Some argue that genetic modification feeds the world and is able to adapt to climate change. Some argue that a switch to small-scale operation organic farming will reduce carbon emissions and the degradation of conventional farming, and reshape the American economy to a resilient state. Regardless of what side of the argument one falls on, we still need food. The point I want to make goes beyond the debate. Genetically modified foods were introduced into processed foods at least 15 years ago. The fact that we are living experiments for a new form of food is true, but there is another issue at hand: the loss of diversity.

The loss is what troubles me. I’m an organic consumer (primarily), but understanding the dynamics of biodiversity touches me on a whole new level of my personal values and beliefs. When Janisse Ray, advocate for a seed-saving revolution, visited Ohio University last semester, I was heartbroken to hear the truth. Ray noted in her book that big agriculture business operates with a 94 percent reduction in seed diversity compared to traditional farming methods. We have already lost so many seeds our Earth accepted into its soils and ecosystems.

The need for a conversation about food has never been more urgent.

Come learn more about how GMOs are affecting our world by watching Bitter Seeds. Admission is free.

More information on GMOs here:


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