Have you heard of Seminis? Probably not; I had not heard of it before seeing this movie. This is from Wikipedia: "Seminis is the largest developer, grower and marketer of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world. Seminis' hybrids claim to improve nutrition, boost crop yields, limit spoilage and reduce the need for chemicals. Their retail line includes over 3,500 seed varieties. ..... On March 23, 2005, Monsanto Company announced that it had completed its acquisition of Seminis."
Those are hybrid seeds, which means that the growers must buy them from Seminis/Monsanto every year. Hybrids don't produce seed that reproduces the parent plant. Hybrids have some advantages, which is why growers are willing to pay for them each year, as long as the cost is not high. As long as there is competition, the cost will not be high. The competition comes from other hybrid seed companies, and from non-hybrid seeds that are in general circulation. Unfortunately, the current trend is for both of those sources of competition to decline, year after year.
Then there is GMO seed, which has been genetically engineered, and patented. The use of such seed is growing rapidly in the U.S. Corn and soybeans are the leading crops using GMO seeds, but they are rapidly growing in use for many other crops. The "Red Herring" that I refer to in the title of this article is the idea that these GMO crops may be unhealthful in some way. I call this a red herring because I'm convinced that none of the current GMO crops are directly harmful to anyone's health. The danger that I see is to the diversity of our food supply. If we were to have only one variety of wheat, one variety of corn, one variety of potatoes, etc., there is a real danger that a fungal or viral disease could wipe out the entire crop. This has happened many times in the past. The Irish potato famine is the most famous example. (Google it!)
The courts have allowed GMO seed to be patented, in spite of the fact that pollen from GMO crops can be transferred by wind or insects to the fields of farmers that are not growing GMO crops. These crops are then contaminated by genetic material that is patented, usually by Monsanto. This is harmless to the consumer's health, but it allows Monsanto to threaten to sue farmers, and thereby coerce them into contracting with Monsanto to use Monsanto's seed. This is a complicated issue, and it is an active one in the courts of America, and foreign nations.
But perhaps there is nothing wrong with a few giant corporations controlling the world's food supply?