January 23, 2016
Seeds are essential to maintain future food supplies. They are the foundation of life, from fruits and vegetables to grain and livestock feed — without them, we have no food. It’s estimated that upwards of 90 percent of our caloric intake comes from seeds, directly or indirectly.
Seeds represent hope and new beginnings. When you save seeds, you’re joining a lineage of farmers, gardeners and seed enthusiasts that dates back to the Stone Age — our civilization arose, in large part, due to seed saving.
Early humans selected the best wild plants with which to feed themselves, passing those varieties along to others by saving and sharing seeds.
Sadly, age-old heirloom varieties are disappearing at an alarming rate — 90 percent of the crop varieties grown 100 years ago are already gone. The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership estimates that 60,000 to 100,000 plant species are in danger of extinction.1
In response to these snowballing losses, a movement to save seeds is sweeping the nation.
The PBS documentary “Seeds of Change” features seed savers who are pursuing grassroots alternatives to GMOs and to industrialized agricultural practices that threaten our health and the health of the planet.
The Disastrous Consequences of Patenting Life
Traditionally, seeds have been saved and shared between farmers from one season to the next. Farmers rarely ever had to buy new seed. Nature, when left alone, provides you with the means to propagate the next harvest in a never-ending cycle.
Today, valuable heirlooms have been replaced by massive expanses of genetically engineered (GE) crops. According to the USDA, 94 percent of U.S. soy and 88 percent of U.S. corn are now genetically engineered.
It’s estimated that, since 1970, 20,000 seed companies have been swallowed up by mega-corporations. In 2005, Monsanto bought the world’s largest fruit and vegetable seed company, Seminis, for $1.4 billion.
Just four agrichemical companies now own 43 percent of the world’s commercial seed supply, and 10 multinational corporations hold 65 percent of global commercial seed for major crops.2
Many farmers are now dependent on patented GE seeds and must buy them every year from companies like Monsanto. Saving such seeds is illegal because it’s considered patent infringement.
Farmers don’t buy the seed outright anymore — they essentially buy a license to use the seed for a short period of time — typically one season. It’s more of a lease, or a “technology use agreement.”
For 200 years, the patenting of life was prohibited, especially with respect to foods. But in 1978, all of that changed with the first patent of a living organism, an oil-eating microbe, which opened the proverbial floodgates. One of Monsanto’s proxies has a patent claiming 463,173 separate plant genes!
Patenting of life was never approved by Congress or the American public, but as far as the GMO industry is concerned, they own a gene wherever it ends up and however it gets there.
You have undoubtedly heard the argument that GE foods are the only way to feed the world (which is, by the way, completely false). What is often not mentioned in that argument, however, is the inequality of the playing fields.
According to the featured documentary, in one three-year period alone, public funding for the development of GE versus organic crops was 70 to one!
Every Day, Your Food Choices Become Increasingly Limited
Over the course of 80 years (between 1903 and 1983), we lost 93 percent of the variety in our food seeds. According to Rural Advancement Foundation International:3
- We went from 497 varieties of lettuce to 36
- We went from 288 varieties of beets to 17
- We went from 307 varieties of sweet corn to 12
Even the popular heirloom tomato has taken an enormous hit, having lost at least 80 percent of its diversity over the last century. Even more tragic is the fact that many of these precious plants are being replaced by patented GE varieties.