In Wageningen we will delve into the importance of seed variety, talk about ownership of seeds and the effects on our food system. Here are 5 TED talks worth watching to give you a crash course on the topic.

1. Ron Finley: A guerilla gardener

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.” Finley:

“Growing one plant will give you 1,000, 10,000 seeds. When one dollar’s worth of green beans will give you 75 dollars’ worth of produce. It’s my gospel, when I’m telling people, grow your own food. Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”

2. Jonathan Dori: Why we’re storing billions of seeds

In this brief talk Jonathan Drori encourages us to save biodiversity — one seed at a time. Reminding us that plants support human life, he shares the vision of the Millennium Seed Bank, which has stored over 3 billion seeds to date from dwindling yet essential plant species. Dori:

“I want to tell you about a project to save plants. And the way that you save plants is by storing seeds. Because seeds, in all their diverse glory, are plants’ futures. All the genetic information for future generations of plants are held in seeds.”

3. Thomas Heatherwick: Building the Seed Cathedral

A future more beautiful? Architect Thomas Heatherwick shows five recent projects featuring ingenious bio-inspired designs. In this TED talk he talks humorously about his projects en from 7.38 about the Seed Cathedral he designed for the U.K at the expo in Shanghai. Heatherwick:

“But the thing that was true, the expo was about the future of cities, and particularly the Victorians pioneered integrating nature into the cities. And the world’s first public park of modern times was in Britain. And the world’s first major botanical institution is in London, and they have this extraordinary project where they’ve been collecting 25 percent of all the world’s plant species. “

4. Pamela Ronald: The case for engineering our food

Pamela Ronald studies the genes that make plants more resistant to disease and stress. She describes her decade-long quest to isolate a gene that allows rice to survive prolonged flooding. She shows how the genetic improvement of seeds saved the Hawaiian papaya crop in the 1990s — and makes the case that modern genetics is sometimes the most effective method to advance sustainable agriculture and enhance food security for our planet’s growing population.

“We want to help nourish the growing population without further destroying the environment. I believe this is the greatest challenge of our time… What scares me most about the loud arguments and misinformation about plant genetics is that the poorest people who most need the technology may be denied access because of the vague fears and prejudices of those who have enough to eat.”

5. Cary Fowler: One seed at a time, protecting the future of food

The varieties of wheat, corn and rice we grow today may not thrive in a future threatened by climate change. In his talk, Cary Fowler takes us inside a vast global seed bank, buried within a frozen mountain in Norway, that stores a diverse group of food-crop for whatever tomorrow may bring.

“Think of diversity as giving us options. And options, of course, are exactly what we need in an era of climate change. And my final thought is that we, of course, by conserving wheat, rice, potatoes, and the other crops, we may, quite simply, end up saving ourselves.”

Want to know more about Cary Fowler? In Wageningen we will screen the documentary Seeds of Time about his quest to preserve seed diversity. Admittance is free, but capacity is limited. Score your ticket now!