Not everyone gets as worked up as I do about the topic of Seed Saving, but they should. It’s a radical, kick-ass skill that has value far beyond that of just providing gardeners with free seed year after year for their gardens. It is also a political statement, an act of self-reliance, and an activity that connects one deeply with nature and the cycle of life.
For many of us, the experience of gardening is magical, but if you’ve never saved seeds you don’t know what you’re missing. While pouring over seed catalogs has the ability to inspire fits of euphoria, the experience of growing a crop to seed, harvesting and storing that seed, and then replanting it in the next season is the most satisfying, exciting, amazing, awe inspiring experience a gardener can have; it’s an experience of a full circle or cycle of life in which you play an active role, and it simply can not be matched on the “magic” continuum.
But while the magic is amazing, I’m not saving seeds for the magic, I’m saving them for the political statement and influence it has on protecting my right to grow and eat pure, unadulterated food the way Mother Nature intended it.
Seed saving and sharing has become the epitome of a grass-roots political movement. It is an act that directly attacks and undermines the foundation that big biotechnology corporations like Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Pioneer; ChemChina and Syngenta; Bayer and Monsanto are built on, and helps to keep their seed patent over-reach in check. The 10 leading agricultural chemical and seed companies control more than 76% percent of the market for seeds, pesticides and herbicides worldwide. Few people understand that patents don’t just protect GMO seed, they are given for all crops, vegetable or grain, GMO or conventional, organic or not, and to protect specific traits like a particular shade of color, leaf curliness, disease resistance, and others. It has become nearly impossible for growers to breed new varieties of plants because so many plant traits are now patented.
“If you go to the farmer’s market and you’re interested in buying good, local, sustainably produced vegetables, you also need to understand that most vegetables are coming out of a breeding process that is itself endangered. We will not have food sovereignty until we have seed sovereignty”, says University of Wisconsin–Madison professor emeritus and OSSI board member Jack Kloppenburg. Working to keep the age old tradition of seed saving and sharing alive protects the fundamental human right to feed oneself, because he who controls the world’s seeds (via patents and other ownership rights) controls the world’s food…..and he who controls the world’s food controls the world. Shouldn’t that “he” be us -- you and me; we the people; my community and yours; local farmers; those who have a vested, personal interest in the wellbeing of the people who live within earshot from our homes and community centers? Yes, it should be. Maywa Montenegro de Wit says in her article Reimagining Seed: From Private Property to Shared Heritage that “...the best way to defend seeds is to grow seeds. [The] most subversive action is to give seed, exchange seed, pull seed up from the earth, and return it to the ground.”
While I wasn’t certain how a Seed Savers Club would be received, I’m excited to report that there has been a lot of interest in it from both the experienced and the never-ever seed savers in our community. Some are interested simply to expand their gardening skills, others to protect local seed diversity and access to food, and some for the intrigue and fun of starting a new family tradition that has the ability to produce a family heirloom to pass on to future generations. But so far no one has shared my political agenda cloaked in seed saving garb, which of course is fine because the act of seed saving, regardless of the motivation for practicing it, has the same affect -- it protects our rights, and keeps big Ag companies in check to some degree.
By Signa Strom
If you’re interested in learning more about seed saving in general, how to do it, or it’s benefits and value, feel free to join us at an upcoming Seed Savers Club meeting, from 6-7PM the 2nd Monday of every month from April - September, with a season ending Community Potluck Dinner held the 1st Monday of October. Or contact Signa Strom, Sustainable Communities Advocate by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 970-927-4311 ext 1000
Reimagining Seed: From Private Property to Shared Heritage, by Maywa Montenegro, published May 6, 2015.
How “Open Source” Seed Producers From The Us To India Are Changing Global Food Production, by Rachel Cernansky, published Dec 25, 2016.
The Patent Landscape of Genetically Modified Organisms, by Wen Zhou, published August 10, 2015.
Enclosing the Global Plant Genetic Commons, by Robert W. Herdt, published May 24, 1999.
German Non-Profit Creates New Open-Source License For Seeds, by Nithin Coca, published
May 22, 2017.
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