Representative from Pun-Pun farm highlighted biodiversity and seed-saving
Rather than gathering for a traditional lecture or discussion-based class, students from Experimental Biology, AP Macroeconomics, and AP Human Geography filed into the Community Room, Drama Room, and a science classroom for an interdisciplinary virtual field trip on January 18th, 2022.
The meeting, which lasted roughly ninety minutes, consisted of a conversation with guest lecturer Gregory Pettys, an ambassador for Pun-Pun farm in Thailand that focuses on seed-saving and sustainable living. With the rise of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and corporation-centered farming, 94% of the world’s seed varieties went extinct in the last year, significantly reducing the world’s biodiversity and harming our ability to bounce back from natural disasters with resilient crops. Wishing to preserve the world’s remaining seeds, residents of Pun-Pun painstakingly harvest seeds from crops to replant them and gift them to other farms.
Pettys grew up “the son of a preacher man” in Springfield, Illinois. After traveling through places like Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the Himalayas, he found himself in Thailand, captivated by the way that residents of Pun-Pun felt a connection to the land that he had never experienced. With his wife and son, he lives a life based around seed-saving. His home, made of adobe, consists of mud and fibers grown from cotton seeds; his food, largely plant-based, is grown from crops he planted; his adopted culture uses seeds to connect with the past.
During the presentation, Pettys presented the anti-GMO side of an ongoing debate, citing Indian farmers who had sold their ancestral seeds to Monsanto as a result of predatory advertising. Currently, 10 companies control almost 75% of seed varieties in the world, granting them a monopoly over vital resources. Advocates for GMOs argue that bioengineering can help the world grow crops resistant to climate change; Pettys and other opponents believe that these corporations are harming future possibilities of resilience.
The debate, a common topic of discussion in Honors Biology classes, also engaged the three classes attending the field trip.
Ali Roche ‘22, who takes both Current Topics in Research in Science and Technology and AP Macroeconomics said the event helped her “see the similarities in the classes I’m taking, which I have also seen throughout the year.” She added, “it showed the overlap in all the classes we take, which helps bring the learning together.”
At the same time, some teachers and students noted that the talk felt somewhat one-sided, with only Pettys’ perspective showcased.
“In terms of the actual content of the field trip, however, I was not the biggest fan,” Ali noted.
- Interview with Ali Roche
- Presentation by Gregory Pettys
- Lappe, A. (2011, Mar 28). The Battle for Biodiversity: Monsanto and Farmers Clash. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/03/the-battle-for-biodiversity-monsanto-and-farmers-clash/73117/
- Seed: The Movie.