(Eat Sovereign, written by Christina Sarich)
Saving seed has become a righteous, rebellious act. Planting your own non-genetically modified, heirloom, organic, pesticide-free seeds saved from your own garden – culled with your own sweat equity from the previous growing season – is as rebellious today as Rosa Parks sitting in the front of a public bus in 1955 or Mohandas Gandhi leading a peaceful but defiant civil resistance campaign for an entire country in 1930.
My great grandmother – and likely yours – saved seed. She knew exactly which seeds to choose. Some of her radishes grew better in direct sun, some of her green beans made an extra loud ‘snap’ when she threw them in a pan to sizzle for moments before serving them up to her family, and she picked her seeds with the same care, perhaps even wonder, as an innocent child blowing dandelions into the wind for the first time.
The act of saving and sharing seed was once commonplace. Due to corporate interests controlling our food supply, the infiltration of our government agencies with Big Ag lobbyists and parsimonious puppets, and the subversion of age-old, sustainable growing practices which have rendered growing organic and sustainable food lost for an entire generation – seed saving and sharing is now – RADICAL.
Seed Prices Have Skyrocketed
Seed prices have skyrocketed in the past 100 years, particularly spiking since Monsanto Co. began its bid to take over our seed supply. Worldwide, 282 million acres are planted in Monsanto’s GM crops. Forty percent of U.S. cropland, or 151.4 million acres, are planted in Monsanto’s crops. Monsanto owns 1,676 seed, plant and other applicable patents. Monsanto also has a habit of suing farmers who try to save seed grown with their patented GM traits. The United States Supreme Court decided that in a case involving a 75-year-old farmer from Indiana named Vernon Bowman who tried to save GM soybean, Monsanto was perfectly justifiable in forcing the farmer to buy new seeds every season.
How might any farmer compete with Monsanto’s GM soy when upwards of 94 percent of soybeans grown in the US are now genetically modified? Monsanto has been suing farmers for almost two decades for similar patent infringement claims, (with over 145 lawsuits filed) but organic farmers are at a loss. Even if they don’t want to grow GM soy, corn, alfalfa, sugar beets, or other crops so commonly grown on our agricultural lands, they have little choice due to cross-pollination. An open-access article argues that contamination of open-pollinated crops cannot be stopped. (Cross-pollination is when one plant pollinates another in a nearby area due to pollinating insects like bees or butterflies, or even from the wind blowing pollen from plant to plant.)
Several research projects have worked on finding out how far pollen drifts, and how often it fertilizes conventional crops in other fields. The test plantings of GM maize conducted in Germany in 2004 looked into these questions. Based on the data from these studies, a set of guidelines was written up that was designed to ensure that coexistence with maize can be achieved.
Even when farmers allow for sufficient space between fields, use buffer strips of traditional crops to surround GM crops, and arrange plantings and select cultivars that can be harvested prior to a GM planting to minimize contamination – it still happens.
To some savvy observers, this is exactly what the biotech industry wanted. What better way to control a population than to control their food? And what better way to control the food supply than by controlling the seed. Farmers were sold some pretty high-falutin’ claims regarding GMO seed in order to make them willing to pay Big Ag’s inflated prices, but now the entire seed industry is suffering from this monopolizing, including organic farmers, and home gardeners alike. Unless, of course, we act like the thinking, sovereign citizens we are, and take back our rights to grow organic, non-GMO food just like our grandparents did.
Have we lost our connection with the soil of the earth, and the plants that sustain us so completely in just a few short generations, that all is lost? Has the biotech industry and a few multinational companies made food sovereignty impossible? I think not.
Saving seed is free – except for the time it takes to grow organic food to begin with, and you can share them or save as many as you like. There are online seed exchanges and organic gardening forums that share rare heirloom seed varieties all the time. The best thing about seed saving and sharing is that trading with friends can greatly increase the number of different varieties you can grow—without spending a cent, and without contributing to Big Ag’s seed monopolies.
Saving Seed Saves Genetic Diversity
Probably around the time that your great grandmother stopped saving seed, during the 1900s, a shocking number of heirloom seed varieties started to disappear. The sole reason for this was because small farmers and gardeners stopped saving seeds from their own efforts. As we began to rely on commercially grown seed, the genetic diversity in our crops, and gardens started to vanish.
With less genetic diversity, our food plants don’t adapt as well to disease, drought-conditions, freezes, and multiple other stresses of trying to grow on this planet in the modern age.
Each time a seed variety is lost, we lose another chance at being food sovereign, controlling our own destiny, and being able to feed our families without relying on corporations to tell us how much we will pay, and what exactly we will eat. Do you really want companies like Nestle selling you water at inflated prices from your own aquifers, or Dow and Syngenta telling you that you will have to eat genetically modified papaya or apples whether you like it or not? Nestle recently stole 80 million gallons of water from Sacramento farmers during the California’s worst drought in history, and Dow Agro Sciences along with Syngenta, Monsanto, et. al. gave millions to try to prevent Americans from knowing if they were eating genetically modified food, all while ignoring the precautionary principle for growing in an open environment.
Genetic diversity is absolutely vital to the continuation of the natural world, and of our own ability to live in freedom.
Genetic diversity within a plant population refers to the number of different alleles (the alternate forms of genes) of all genes and the frequency with which they appear.
Variation is high when there are many different alleles of all genes and many different combinations of those alleles. When the biotech industry thinks they can reduce a plant down to a ‘controllable’ set of genes, they are mistaken. Scientists are only now beginning to understand how complex environment and other factors are in determining an organisms well-being, and plants are much more often affected by things which the biotech industry completely ignores. Plant genes not only ‘talk’ among themselves, but plants even talk to one another.
Home Grown vs. Commercially Grown
Home gardeners want plants that are:
- easy to care for
- taste great
- produce true to form
Commercially grown plants are grown for one reason only – to make money. The fact that conventionally grown plants are less nutritious than their organically grown counterparts, require farmers to use more than 32,000 different pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides to grow them and even threaten some heirloom varieties which have taken thousands of years to develop should indicate that commercially grown plants aren’t necessarily the best way to cultivate anything – from tress, to food you eat, to ornamental flowers.
Factory Farms vs. Small Family Farms and Gardens
Factory farming is polluting our soil, and our waterways with high amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and other chemical fertilizers. High levels of nitrates and nitrites were found in twenty-five thousand community wells that provided drinking water to two thirds of the nation’s population. More than fifteen million people in two hundred eighty communities are drinking water with phosphorous or phosphates which mostly come from industrial farming operations.
Small family farms and gardens don’t grow in a way that pollutes every single aspect of the food chain. Despite what companies like Monsanto and those with a depopulation agenda would like you to believe, family farming is central to eradicating hunger. With more than 500 million family farms in the world representing 98% of farm holdings, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in both developing and developed countries.
Family farming also eradicates poverty by preventing a few mega-rich multinational companies from buying up all the land, and souring all our natural resources. In developing countries, 70% of the hungry live in rural areas and depend on farming for their subsistence and income. The preservation of natural resources and the diversity of agricultural activities are at the heart of family farming. For family farmers, land, water, biodiversity, and soils are not only means of production, but a long-term investment that needs to be nurtured.
So Why Save Seed? Saving seed protects genetic diversity which has taken thousands of years, and Mother Nature’s great wisdom to cultivate. It protects the incomes of the ‘little people’ and prevents oligarchic governments and corporations from ruining our planet, your health, and your pocket book. Seed saving is radical because the first rung on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs involves food and shelter. You can’t exactly become a fully-realized person when you are constantly struggling in poverty with no healthy, nutritious, GM-free food to eat, no clean water to drink, and health that is compromised by forgetting that food is medicine. Seed saving is radical – because multi-billion dollar companies don’t want the masses to wake up and realize that a tiny little seed can grow into a massive Oak Tree, with roots that are deep and a heart that can defy the most stalwart attempts to control God’s free souls.