Directed by Micha X. Peled
Review by Jacquelin Sonderling
Bitter Seeds is the third film in producer-director Micha X. Peled’s “Globalization Triology.” This time he turns his focus on Monsanto and the genetically modified cotton seeds that have replaced nearly all conventional cotton seeds in central India.
This is a hard-hitting doc about an epidemic of suicides in this farming culture. According to the producers, a quarter of a million Indian cotton farmers have taken their lives over the past 16 years, and three more will do so in the time it takes to view the movie. What’s behind this catastrophe? In the past, generations of subsistence-level farmers managed to eke out a living by saving seeds year-to-year to plant crops that needed nothing more than cow dung as fertilizer.
Those seeds have gradually been replaced over the past 16 years by genetically modified, non-renewable seeds created and patented by bio-engineering giant Monsanto. Although promoted as providing higher yields with less fertilization (and being insect resistant), the reality is that they do neither effectively in this particular terrain and climate. With failing crops, farmers are forced to borrow money, and end up so deeply in debt to both banks and moneylenders that they are unable to provide for their families. In despair, many farmers drink pesticide, a final indictment of the source of their struggles.
Peled tells this story through a young village woman who is studying to be a journalist. She has already lost her father, and her uncle seems to be teetering on the edge. She wants to know what’s driving the men of her own village and others nearby to take this drastic, final step.
Bitter Seeds is beautifully shot and immediately immerses the viewer into life in Telung Takli. The full depth of its issues is too complex to be discussed thoroughly in this limited space, but the global impact should not be underestimated. Bitter Seeds, and the tragic story behind it, is a red alert to the changes Monsanto is making in the world’s agriculture.
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~ Film: Bonsai Peoplecotton, GMO, Indian farmers, Monsanto