This Swearing Seed Wants You to Give a *&#$ About the Ag Industry
What can a swearing cartoon seed teach us about the state of the agrichemical business? Perhaps that it’s time for more people to pay attention to it.
By 2020, the global seed market will be worth $92 billion, up from $54 billion in 2014, according to the research firm Markets and Markets. As the market has grown, the corporate landscape has shrunk, thanks to ongoing consolidation in the industry. If a number of acquisition deals currently in the works—such as the takeover of Swiss-based Syngenta by state-owned ChemChina for $43 billion—are finalized, three companies will soon sell half the world’s seed supply. Had Bayer succeeded in purchasing Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, as it attempted to do in May, the market would have narrowed even more.
These companies sell other products too, including lots of agrichemicals, which is partly why their business is so lucrative. Take corn—89 percent of the U.S. crop was grown from seeds resistant to herbicide, such as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready variety, which is genetically engineered to withstand applications of the weed killer Roundup, also sold by Monsanto.
But that kind of market saturation can lead to a host of problems ranging from herbicide-resistant superweeds to higher seed prices to millions of pounds of glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup and a probable carcinogen—being sprayed across millions of acres of farmland. While all this gets a certain set of people very riled up, the folks at Seed Matters, a sustainable ag advocacy group backed by the Clif Bar Family Foundation, are hoping that a foulmouthed animated seed can drum up some more interest and support. The new animated video starring Mr. Seed, voiced by comedian Pete Holmes, is rated M: “Not suitable for children. May be offensive to agrichemical execs.”
“We can feed the world without ruining it—because we keep it clean,” Mr. Seed promises viewers as he blends up a smoothie of manure and other soil amendment. “But we do have dirty [bleep] mouths.” Mouths, as you see in the seed’s smile, literally filled with dirt.
As Mr. Seed explains, his genetically engineered counterparts—swole “GMO bros” snorting “PoundUp” in the gym locker room and bemoaning their underdeveloped…reproductive organs—can’t grow strong roots and naturally develop traits like drought resistance on their own.
The message doesn’t go quite as deep as those strong, non–genetically engineered roots that reach down into the soil. Even if the message is a bit shallow, it’s just as blunt—and likely by design. “The way your food is grown is kind of [bleep] up,” Mr. Seed says at the close, “but you can help un-[bleep] it by going here”: seedsmatter.org.