The frozen, bodiless genes of millions of plants, animals and humans are stored in biobanks around the world. Together with corn seed, the stem cells of polar bears and frozen drops of human blood — rekindled dreams of old are travelling towards potential futures: re-creating species threatended with extinction, ending world hunger, and human life without illness or disease.
The documentary film “Golden Genes” embarks on an expedition to some of the largest, oldest and most contemporary archives of life — from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Spitsbergen, to the animal cell banks of the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, and the largest biodiversity storage in the world in Shenzhen, China. Biobanks such as these are data centres in the global network of the genetic research community. The information that they generate from the DNA of various living organisms provides the basis of today’s life sciences.
But biobanks do more than that. Within their freezers the boundaries between lifeforms are blurred. Fungal, bacterial, or human — it’s all the same to the technology. Biobanks pose a fundamental question to humankind: what does it mean to be part of nature in the age of the genome?
Things that were unthinkable 20 years ago are discussed by scientists interviewed in the film as concrete research projects. The storage of every DNA molecule on the planet — an idea closely related to the century–old history of genetics — has now become a real possibility.
Caught somewhere between nature film and political documentary, “Golden Genes” outlines the enormous challenge that the comprehensive study of biodiversity presents to society, but also to our image of humankind.