Midwinter Solstice is past and the light is returning!

As a nurseryman and grower this is the time of year when I begin to think about the seeds I will plant in the coming year. Perhaps you do as well.

In 2011 more than 7 million North Americans joined the ranks of backyard (and front yard) gardeners. Choices must be made every season as to what to plant and grow. Those of you who know me or have attended one of my classes or workshops locally or at my nursery ‘Green Tiger Garden’ here in Prunedale, are probably aware of my fiercely biased opinions regarding the use of non GMO, organically grown, “heirloom” seeds and the need to save and share these seeds as well.

But perhaps I have not explained my position in other than an emotional way, so please allow me to expound: Since the beginning of agriculture it has been a time-honored tradition, “sacred right” and duty of farmers, core to their sovereignty, to save seeds for the future. However, due to a 1980 U.S. Supreme court ruling that approved patents on life forms by genetic coding, farmers have lost this right. Seeds are now “legally” owned and traded as commodities like corn, coffee and pork bellies.

As of 2011, three multinational corporations; Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta, controlled 47% of the first step in food production, seeds. A mere ten corporations hold 67%. Multiple cases have been prosecuted by these corporations (Monsanto in the lead) against farmers for “saving” seeds, claiming “ownership” and patent violation by the corporations.

Further, these seed-owning entities have genetically modified seeds and plants to withstand herbicides, include pesticides, and create non-naturally occurring pharmaceuticals in plants. Sometimes the results of these modified plants have been disastrous such as the case of Monsanto’s BT cotton in 1996-97. (See “Coast Weekly” – Monterey county news & entertainment “A Growing Concern” by Susan Benson, Mark Arax and Rachel Burstein, March 27- April 2, 1997).

The USDA has historically and continues to lack effective oversight and their regulations have been fragmented. Since 1990 companies such as Monsanto have been allowed to submit their own “research” as demonstration of safety of their “modifications”.

“Allowing the patenting of plant genetics made seed an attractive investment for non-seed companies that saw a chance to capitalize on a previously public-domain resource. Now seed saving is restricted, and our food supply is held hostage by those who control the seed….genetic diversity is always important but especially so in a time of climate change.” ~ Matt Dillon- of the Organic Seed Alliance. www.seedalliance.org

The importance of growing and saving seeds, in my opinion, has never been greater. Growing your own food and medicine is an action of self-sufficiency, security and freedom. Saving seeds and sharing them is a time-honored and spiritually fulfilling activity. Now it has also become a revolutionary act.

So what to do?

  • ☼ First get informed, look up and join seed advocacy groups such as the Organic Seed alliance, www.seedalliance.org
  • ☼ Grow and save organic, non GMO, non hybrid, heirloom seeds*.
  • ☼ Shop from independent nurseries and organic farmers and insist that they carry these products to insure your patronage.

*Hybrid seeds can be organically produced however seeds saved from hybrids will not grow reliably true. This is not to say that organic hybrids do not have their place in the garden particularly with respects to avoiding cross pollination such as when growing simultaneously multiple varieties of open pollinated (heirloom varieties) corn, tomatoes or squash etc. Personally I try to limit the use of hybrid seed to around 5% or less of my annual food production plants.

Here is a short list of some of my favorite suppliers of seeds: