Food Advocacy Goal #2 : Keeping seeds in the public domain
From the very beginning of my interest in food-security, I realized that this was the scariest element of the assault on our food system. A handful of corporations control the majority of our food system.
For example, Monstanto alone owns:
- 17 agricultural seed brands
- 4 “traits, technologies & partnership” companies (whatever the hell that means)
- 18 weed control brands
- 2 vegetable seed brands
- 4,000 individual vegetable seed varieties representing 20 species of vegetables
As if that’s not scary enough, they are aggressive about protecting their business interests.
Monsanto has sued farmers for patent infringement when pollen from their GMO crops CONTAMINATED the farmers field. Monsanto also sues farmers who save seeds. You can see Monsanto’s explanation for why they sue here. Here’s some more scary details about Monsanto’s policies to protect their patents.
Why do they have the right to patent the seeds of life?
We’re not talking about owning a chicken or a backyard full of tomato plants. We’re talking about genetic code, the very building blocks of life.
The arrogance is staggering.
Thank goodness there is a bit of light in this insanity, right here at home in Canada! Percy Schmeiser took on Monsanto and won!
What can I do to keep seeds in public hands?
Although the patenting of seeds is one of the scariest assaults on our food security and food sovereignty with the widest, most serious implications, it’s also one of the easiest problems to address.
Grow heirloom varieties. Save your own seeds. Plant them. Enjoy them.
Sharing is the most rebellious, political act you can undertake in a paradigm in which sharing is on par with treason. Really, I guess sharing IS a kind of corporate treason.
See, don’t you feel rebellious??
Heirloom seeds are essential to our food security for a ridiculous number of reasons.
Open-pollinated seeds, unlike hybrid seeds or GMO seeds, can be saved year after year and have the plant come true to the parent.
Instead of splicing frog genes or something equally ridiculous into the seed’s genes to “improve” them, a farmer can select for the tastiest, strongest, healthiest plants and gradually improve his crop year after year.
It doesn’t take any money, or a degree in bio-chem. All it takes is observation, patience and little bit of practical knowledge.
Saving seeds from your garden selects for a crop that will become uniquely suited to your particular location and micro-climate. We grow tomatoes from seeds saved by my mum’s neighbour, Ed, and his tomatoes are invariably the last ones standing in our damp fall garden. They are strong, productive, healthy and most importantly – delicious.
In our own little garden here in Vancouver we have a virtual Noah’s Ark of genetic material. From critically endangered Chantecler chickens to two dozen varieties of heirloom tomatoes, we are saving and sharing that genetic information for future generations, and enjoying some wicked toasted tomato sandwiches in the meantime.
Who knows what cancer-fighting compound might be found in the genes of these tomatoes? What health benefits, what pest-resistence, disease-resistance . . .
We can’t know. Isn’t that worth saving?
If you really want to get serious about saving seeds and being a local genetic diversity hero, keep an eye on your local community centres for seed swaps in late winter, find your local Seedy Saturday event, or join Seeds of Diversity. Don’t have one close by? Start your own! All it takes is a few seeds changing hands between neighbours to help keep our invaluable seeds in the public domain.