Distributor:  Bullfrog Films
Length:  52 minutes
Date:  1999
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English
Grade level: 9-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
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Big Spuds, Little Spuds

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The impact of climate change and monoculture on one of the world's staple food crops.

Big Spuds, Little Spuds

BIG SPUDS, LITTLE SPUDS takes a close look at the potato to examine the effects of climate change and monoculture on one of the world's staple food crops. With half the planet's population dependent on rice, wheat, potatoes, and corn, to what extent are pests and disease - often exacerbated by climate change - threatening world food security?

The people of the Andes in Peru have raised more than 5,000 varieties of potatoes. During the Green Revolution of the 1960s they were urged to adopt a handful of new high-yielding varieties, that proved to be highly vulnerable to the harsh mountain weather, and to pests and diseases. The new varieties also require massive inputs of chemicals and water.

In 1997 El Nino had a dramatic impact on the climate both in Peru, and Idaho, home of the US potato industry. In Peru, El Nino brought drought and killer frosts to the highlands: in Idaho, it brought persistent rains. With the wet weather came the blight that caused the Irish potato famine. Idaho's potato farmers were totally unprepared.

The film looks at traditional methods of potato farming where Andean families grow their own varieties, practice crop rotation, and utilize a minimum of inputs. In sharp contrast is the industrial method of production used in Idaho, and increasingly in Peru, where just a few high-yielding varieties are grown, where soil fertility decreases, pesticides lose their effectiveness, and campesinos wind up working as laborers on their own land.

But there is a new pride in the old varieties of potatoes. People are documenting the characteristics of different varieties in an attempt to preserve genetic diversity, and with it perhaps world food security.

'Gives a reasoned explanation both of the problem and its possible solution through reintroduction of traditional potato varieties requiring less in the way of fertilizers and pesticides.' Buzz Haugton, Shields Library, UC-Davis, MC Journal

'Our scientists felt that the video gave a good overview of the importance of biological diversity and associated knowledge.' Christine Graves, International Potato Center, Peru

'Excellent...make(s) a compelling case that action is urgently needed to respond to global change, above all climate change and declining biodiversity. The message about the value of local knowledge comes through clearly...I strongly believe we will only have governments act when their citizenry is well enough informed and pressing for action...A significant contribution. It is important (it) be widely viewed.' Gordon Smith, Director of the Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

'The film successfully depicts the coping strategies for both the Peruvians and the Idahoans, placing the struggle of the individual farmers in the framework of larger global ecological, economic, and development issues...(S)uitable for use in classes on ecology, anthropology, globalization and agricultural development.' Alan Duben, Human Ecology


Columbus International Film and Video Festival
Nordische Filmtage Lubeck
Inventur 6 - Filmschau Niedersachsen
Tage des unabhaengigen Films Osnabruck


Main credits

Corves, Christoph (film producer)
Corves, Christoph (film director)
Corves, Christoph (cinematographer)
Corves, Christoph (editor of moving image work)
Castiñeira, Delia (film director)
Castiñeira, Delia (editor of moving image work)
Shubart, David (narrator)

Other credits

Camera, Christoph Corves; editors: Delia Castiñeira, Christoph Corves, Kai Zimmer.

Distributor credits

Christoph Corves and Delia Castineira

Christoph Corves and Delia Castineira

Docuseek2 subjects

Organic and Sustainable Agriculture
Agriculture Sector
Climate Change
American Studies
Plant Biology
Environmental History
Social Psychology
Environmental Anthropology

Distributor subjects

Climate Change/Global Warming
Food Crops
Food Safety
Genetic Diversity
Global Issues
Latin American Studies
Science, Technology, Society
Social Psychology
Sustainable Agriculture


climate change, monoculture, potatoes, monoculture, food crops, genetic diversity, Peru, Idaho, Pat Mooney, potato blight, Andes, Irish potato famine; "Big Spuds, Little Spuds"; Bullfrog Films

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