One of the reasons I save seeds is my outrage at the corporatisation of seed and the poverty that causes. Seed is the beginning of life and the source of the majority of the world’s food, our food. It should not be owned by individuals, governments or large corporate agribusinesses. We can’t afford to let them own the future of our food.
In the old days farmers, subsistence growers and gardeners saved their own seeds. Each year the seeds could be sown, food harvested and enough seeds saved so that the next year they could be sown again. A simple process that is sustainable and follows natures own pattern. Saving seed like this means that as plants evolve in a particular environment they adapt to the local conditions, the soil and the weather. Growers select the best plants to save the seeds from and a robust and healthy strain develops.
Today large corporations deliberately manufacture seed that cannot be saved and relied upon to grow again, seeds that are:
- at best UNSTABLE because two plants have been crossed to produce the seed so it cannot grow the same variety again, the same cross would need to be made again.
- worse seed that has been bred with a gene to be STERILE so that it cannot be saved to grow again, known as ‘the terminator gene’.
- at worst the DNA of the plant itself is MODIFIED to such an extent in a laboratory that scientists cannot even guess what effects these organisms will have in the long term.
Farmers are struggling under the pressures, particularly in the already poor countries, by the corporatisation of seed because they have to buy new seed to sow each year. They also have to buy fertilisers and pesticides because the seeds are developed to require proprietary inputs, which costs the farmer more money. Farmers are even getting sued by the corporate giants because the patented plants have crossed into a farmers field.
Governments around the world restrict the number of varieties of edible crop crops that can legally be sold, it does not make sense why they do this but they do. These restricted lists are developed in conjunction with agribusinesses making it illegal to sell seeds not on the list. It means for the home gardener that we have access to fewer varieties of seed and seed suppliers can be penalised. This year Association Kokopelli were fined because they sold varieties not on the European list.
Reducing the number of varieties available reduces the biodiversity, the gene pool of our edible plant life, which is critical if we need to adapt to changes in climate, diseases and growing conditions. We will have fewer plants and varieties of plants to turn to in order develop strains that can cope with new diseases, changing climates and adverse conditions.
If we continue to allow seeds to be manufactured and patented by corporations whose interest is profit, we may lose the ability to grow our own food. Loss of biodiversity in plant life will mean a loss of diversity in insect and other animal life affecting every part of the food chain and the world we inhabit. In the long-term who knows what will happen if we allow seeds to be manufactured with genes that have been developed in laboratories and that cannot be saved to grow again. I am not a scientist, nor do I claim to really understand the genetic issues but it seems so basic that you do not drastically alter the DNA of plants, deliberately breed in sterility and limit the gene pool without causing serious damage and a threat to the availability of food around the world.
What we you do about it?
Simple …. grow some edible plants, save the seeds and pass them on. If you don’t have any seeds to start with get some; from other seed savers, your neighbours or friends or buy the seeds from seed organisations and companies who specialise in open-pollinated seeds. If you don’t have your own garden, plot or patch join the Guerilla Gardeners and do it that way. There are plenty of garden bloggers, including me, who have seeds to swap check out my Seeds to Swap page or this Garden Bloggers Seed Network at Bifurcated Carrots. Grow some edible plants, save the seeds and pass them on.
Support a Seed Saving Organisation
Become a member of your local seed saving organisation. Donate a little cash to Kokopelli to help them pay the fine for selling non-registered seeds Donate to Association Kokopelli (France), or adopt one of the Heritage Seed Library’s endangered varieties Heritage Seed Library’s Adopt a Veg Programme a bit like sponsoring an animal in a zoo.
Volunteer as a Seed Guardian
Seed libraries need guardians to grow and save the seeds so that the seeds they collect remain viable. If you just put seeds in a box and keep them eventually they will loose their viability and ability to grow. Seeds are part of nature, they are dynamic and need to grow, set seed and grow again. So seeds guardians help out by growing plants from the libraries seed collections, then save the seeds and return them to the library. If you are interested in becoming a seed guardian you can volunteer through Kokopelli’s Adoptez une Semence programme or The Heritage Seed Library, UK