I read a post this week from one of my fellow farm bloggers that troubled me, and got me really thinking about where we buy our seeds and seedlings, and where those actually originate.
Would I know the difference between a seedling grown from stock owned by Monsanto and seed grown by a company who signed the Safe Seeds pledge? Of course not. No way. What is the Safe Seed Pledge, anyway, and what's the big deal with Monsanto?
Monsanto happens to be the world's largest producer of genetically-modified seeds. Some are bred to withstand applications of herbicide, specifically, their own product, Roundup. Others have been fiddled with so nutrient content is increased, plants are more drought resistant, or taste will be improved. From Monsanto's point of view, as I understand it, they're helping the world's food problem. But, I've also read that as, say, genetically-modified alfalfa seed spreads from one field to an organic farmer's field through natural seed spread, those organic companies lose their certification. I've also heard accounts of farmers being sued because Monsanto-bred seed cross-bred with their own, and now belongs to Monsanto (that's a gross paraphrase of what I remember, so please forgive me...I just remember being truly horrified by the thought). (I do happen to know someone who works for Monsanto, and I hold nothing against him or any other Monsanto employee personally...it's more the company's business that bothers me.)
To combat the increase of genetically-modified seed production, many seed companies, large and small, have signed the Concil for Responsible Genetics' Safe Seed Pledge:
"Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms, poses great biological risks as well as economic, political, and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, to genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems, and ultimately to healthy people and communities." (from the Council for Responsible Genetics, www.gene-watch.org )
Kevin Lee Jacobs, a blogger I only just discovered this week (I'm currently obsessed with his gardening posts!), wrote a great post listing the varieties of vegetables acquired through Monsanto's $1.4 billion purchase of Seminis in 2005. If you're like me, used to buying what looks or sounds good at the nursery, you'll be disappointed, too. (I'm also disappointed I'm just now getting educated on all of this and what it means to the food WE grow...I mean, hello, this purchase happened 7 years ago!!) He remarks that he'll print the list and carry it with him in his wallet so he won't be suckered in while he shops for his garden this year. I think I may do the same. No more 'Early Girl', 'Lemon Boy', 'Beefmaster', 'Better Boy' or 'Patio' tomatoes; 'Packman' broccoli (formerly our favorite); 'Cheddar' cauliflower; or 'North Star' peppers for us.
Be sure, too, to check out this list of all the seed companies who have signed the CRG's Safe Seed Pledge for 2012. I know I'll do my very best to buy only safe seeds for this year's garden. (Note that two fairly local companies, Territorial Seed Company and Ed Hume Seeds, are on the list!)
Where do you buy your seeds?