A lovely friend of mine asked for me to contribute a piece for her wonderful blog “We Like It Raw.” Boy, it was sure hard for me to pick just one topic; however, I did finally settle on one!
With more and more folks growing their own food in backyards and balconies, I thought it would be good to revisit all the countless posts I had written over these last 10 years and put them together in one compilation.
TAKING BACK OUR FOOD
I can see the day coming when even your home garden is gonna be against the law. Union Sundown – Bob Dylan
Spring is here and with it comes a mailbox full of seed catalogs to be drooled over. Growing your own food is empowering; but, did you know that by planting a garden you might just be supporting Corporate Agriculture? As seasoned and newbie gardeners alike know, it’s easy to buy new seeds every year. Saving your own will not only save you money but also, hopefully, will provide some satisfaction as being a minor act of empowerment against the corporate control over the world’s seed supply.
Yep, that’s right. You’ve probably heard of Big Oil. Well, there’s a new kid on the block. Multi-nationals now own the rights to many of the world’s food seed varieties. But any concerned gardener can short-circuit the system by saving seed. According to the Organic Consumer’s Association, “While consumers struggle to fuel their cars and put food on the table, oil companies (like Exxon Mobil, BP and Conoco Phillips) and seed companies (like Monsanto, Cargill and ADM) are raking in record profits.”
You think that if you “Grow Your Own” you are free from the clutches of Monsanto? Think again. What you may not realize is that Monsanto also now owns approximately 40% of the home garden vegetable seed market — making them the largest seed company in the world.
Save Your Seeds – take back your food supply from corporate control
There are many reasons to save your own seeds
- to save money
- to preserve a non-commercially available variety
- to observe varieties for adaptation to difficult growing conditions
- to share the bounty of our gardens with other seed savers
- to have the pleasure of becoming an observer and an active participant in our own food production.
So, what can you do? Here are some suggestions:
- Start A Community Seed Bank – connect with fellow gardeners in your area, ensuring seed security. A seed bank protects rare and useful local crops. It is also an emergency source of seed if crops fail due to disease, pests, or bad weather.
- Buy OP or Heirloom – try to stay away from hybridized or GMO contaminated seeds
Open-pollinated vegetable varieties reproduce themselves in one of two ways: cross-pollination between two plants (via wind, insects or water) or self-pollination (between male and female flower parts contained within the same flower or separate flowers on the same plant). Beets, brassicas, carrots, corn and squash are cross-pollinating, and so require isolation in the field to keep varieties true. Beans, lettuce, peas and tomatoes are self-pollinating, do not require isolation and are the easiest for seed-saving home gardeners to sustain year to year.
“We have neglected to preserve the diversity of our food. Today, we have more brands of shoes than we have of carrots or broccoli.” —Jules Dervaes
“Seeds are critical to our success as gardeners and farmers. They are compact packages of genetic information and stored food reserves, just waiting for the conditions found in warm, moist soil in order to germinate and create tomatoes, carrots, beans and thousands of other delights out of sunshine, air, water and soil. For most of the last ten thousand years of human history, seed-saving was something nearly everyone practiced, because in order to eat and therefore to survive, it was necessary. The grains and beans which formed the basis of most diets were both seed and food. Grown in large quantities, the best were saved for planting and the rest were eaten. Our ancestors did this each year, generation after generation through the centuries. Variations in climate, soil and techniques from garden to garden and community to community, accumulated through the years, creating the incredible diversity which existed over much of our planet well into this century. These local seeds were integral to life and culture everywhere. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these varieties has disappeared.” From Bill Duesing – Living on the Earth 1999
According to Food & Agriculture Organization, 75% of the genetic diversity of crop plants were lost in the last century. A survey by RAFI found that approximately 97% of U.S. Department of Agriculture lists have been lost in the last 80 years.
Seeds companies are being bought up at an alarming rate by Monsanto. Their most recent purchase was Seminis.
It is estimated that Seminis controls 40 percent of the U.S. vegetable seed market and 20 percent of the world market—supplying the genetics for 55 percent of the lettuce on U.S. supermarket shelves, 75 percent of the tomatoes, and 85 percent of the peppers, with strong holdings in beans, cucumbers, squash, melons, broccoli, cabbage, spinach and peas.
The company’s biggest revenue source comes from tomato and peppers seeds, followed by cucumbers and beans.
Here are a few of the published vegetable varieties that we know that Monsanto owns:
Beans: EZ Gold, Eureka, Goldrush, Kentucky King, Lynx, Bush Blue Lake 94
Carrot: Nutri-Red, Sweet Sunshine, Karina, Chantenay #1, Chantilly, Lariat
Cucumber: Dasher II, Daytona, Turbo, Speedway, Sweet Slice, Yellow Submarine, Sweeter Yet
Lettuce: Esmeralda, Lolla Rossa (and derivatives), Red Sails, Red Tide, Blackjack, Summer time, Monet, Baby Star, Red Butterworth
Melons: Alaska, Bush Whopper, Casablanca, Dixie Jumbo, Early Crisp
Onion: Arsenal, Hamlet, Red Zeppelin, Mars, Superstar, Candy
Peppers: Valencia, Camelot, King Arthur, Red Knight, Aristotle, Northstar, Biscane, Caribbean Red, Serrano del Sol, Early Sunsation, Fat and Sassy
Spinach: Melody, Unipack 151Spinach, Bolero, Cypress
Squash: Autumn Delight, Bush Delicata (producer-vendor), Really Big Butternut, Early Butternut, Buckskin Pumpkin (AAS), Seneca Autumn, Table ace
Tomato: Big Beef, Beefmaster, First Lady I and II, Early Girl, Pink Girl, Golden Girl, Sunguard, Sun Chief Sweet, Baby Girl, Sweet Million
Watermelon: Royal Flush, Royal Star (pet), Stargazer, Starbright, Stars and Stripes, Yellow doll, Tiger
Zucchini/Summer Squash: Blackjack, Daisy, Fancycrook, Sunny Delight, Lolita, Sungreen
” SAVE OUR SEEDS” PLEDGE
I pledge to take back control over the most sacred form of plant life – seeds
I will strive to save my own seeds, encourage self pollination and self seeding “volunteers”
I will refrain from purchasing seed varieties controlled by Monsanto
I will support local seed banks
I will purchase organic, heirloom or open pollinated seeds from independent seed companies whose mission is to save seed diversity
That little seed packet you now have will determine the future of our food — it’s in your hands.
:: SOURCES ::
Urban Homestead Supply heirloom seeds http://www.peddlerswagon.com/c-95-seeds.aspx
Little Homestead in the City http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/2008/09/25/sos
Little Homestead in the City http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/2009/01/06/do-you-know-where-your-seed-comes-from/
Primal Seeds http://www.primalseeds.org/bioloss.htm
Millions Against Monsanto http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto