bitter seeds

Bitter Seeds raises questions about the human cost of genetically-modified agriculture and the future of how we grow things.

programme information


1 x 87'

Production Company

Teddy Bear Films Inc






Winner Green Screen Award & Oxfam Global Justice Award, Amsterdam International Documentary Film Festival 2011
Winner Humanitas Award, International Documentary Association 2012
Winner International Green Award, Cinema for Peace Berlin Awards 2013

Episode Information

Bitter Seeds explores the future of how we grow things. The worldwide debate focuses on how farming is being drastically transformed by the demands of industrial agriculture. Companies like the U.S.-based Monsanto claim that their genetically modified (GM) seeds offer the most effective solution to feeding the world’s growing population, but on the ground, many small-scale farmers are losing their land. In India, the controversy has become a matter of life and death. Every 30 minutes one farmer in India, deep in debt and unable to provide for his family, commits suicide. Following a U.S. complaint to the World Trade Organization, India had to open its doors to foreign seed companies. Within a few years, multinational corporations have taken over India’s seed market in a number of major crops. Now only GM seeds are available at the shops, requiring India’s farmers pay an annual royalty. The GM seeds are much more expensive, they need additional fertilizers and insecticides and must be re-purchased every season. While large farms have prospered, the majority of farmers find it increasingly more difficult to make a living off their land. Bitter Seeds follows a season in a village at the epicenter of the crisis, from sowing to harvest. Like most of his neighbors, cotton-farmer Ram Krishna must borrow heavily in order to afford the mounting costs of modern farming. Required by a money-lender to put up his land as collateral, he gambles on everything he has. When his crop is attacked by pests, Ram Krishna must do whatever he can to avoid losing the family land. Adding to his burden is another duty – his daughter has reached marrying age, and he must find the money for an expensive dowry. Ram Krishna has just become a candidate for joining the ranks of the farmers who commit suicide in despair. Weaving in and out of Ram Krishna’s story is that of his neighbor’s daughter. Manjusha, a college student, is determined to become a journalist and tell the world about the farmers’ predicament. Her family opposes her plans, which go against village traditions. Manjusha’s ambition is also fueled by her personal history - her father was one of the suicide victims. When a newspaper reporter agrees to look at her writing, Manjusha takes on Ram Krishna’s plight as her first reporting project. Armed with a small camera from the production team, her video becomes part of the film. From the remote village in the state of Maharashtra, the film follows the seeds salesmen to their company’s headquarters. Interviews with seed industry executives (including Monsanto’s) and their critic, Vandana Shiva, flesh out the debate. Featuring compelling characters, Bitter Seeds tells a deeply moving story from the heart of the worldwide controversy about the future of farming.

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