Seeds & Why We Should Care

In the headlines recently, I am reading more and more about the threat against the trade of seeds. This is incredibly troubling for several reasons – mainly because seeds are life, and for many areas of the world, the acts of saving and trading seeds are a matter of being well-nourished or not. Or a matter of financial security or not. And while most of us are rather disconnected with seeds because we aren’t growing our own food, it is an issue that affects all of us.

So, seeds – why care? Well, seeds equal food. Seeds are important to our survival. Seeds carry genetic history of crops that have been cultivated for hundreds of years. The ability to save seeds – seeds that have proven to be resilient to a particular climate; seeds that grow to be the tastiest watermelon; seeds that have been passed down from your great grandmother’s garden – this is something that should not be infringed upon.

In today’s global food system, we have come to worship the monoculture system – meaning, we grow one variety of the big crops, such as corn, soy, and wheat versus a multitude of the varieties in each crop. This is problematic because it leaves our food system vulnerable to things like disease. Growing monocultures became popular 50-60 years ago because farmers could grow high yields under the “Green Revolution,” which was anything but ‘green.’ It basically encouraged farmers to “get big or get out” – at the expense of the environment and the economic well-being of farming families and communities.

Governments cracking down on the trading of seeds enrages me. The first story
that had me muttering curse words was out of Malawi where seed saving and trading are critical to the survival of the small farmer. The new seed policy could ban farmers from such actions and force them to purchase seeds from the international seed companies (seeds that need to be bought new year after year as they created to not be saved). The ridiculous reasoning for such a policy is that it is actually protecting the farmers by reducing their risk of getting “counterfeit seeds” from other farmers and local stores. What a load of shite. And guess who one of the lead authors of the policy is? An ex-Monsanto employee. I can’t make this crap up. Monsanto is one of the companies that will certainly benefit from these anti-seed saving policies.   

The other article that caught my attention pertained to what is going on in our own backyards. Nearly 30 states have passed “seed-preemption laws designed to block counties and cities from adopting their own rules on the use of seeds, including bans on GMOs.” Now, I don’t want to get into the whole GMO thang in this blog, but when these laws use language from a draft created by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), whose members include the Koch brothers, Monsanto, and DuPont, it should raise a red flag.

So, what should we do? It’s a complex problem with no simple answer. What I do know is we should do what we can to protect food rights. Here in Cleveland, we have the Cleveland Seed Bank, which provides access to seeds at seven local libraries. Get some seeds. Grow some food. Support small farmers doing the right thing. Protect the pollinators. Spread the word.