Donna Baird and daughter attended the Garland Community Garden plant sale. They are standing in front of a Citizen Science Garden Experiment that we are jointly undertaking with students from North Garland High School Environmental Club. Donna is a member of the Garland Multicultural Commission and the chief steward for the Multicultural plot at the Garland Community Garden.
Seeds Are Important
First of all I want to thank all the folks in the DFW area who stopped by our plant sale at the Garland Community Garden on April 1 and made our sale the huge success it was. I had so much fun telling folks all about pigeon pea plants I had brought for sale and I know that other members of Loving Garland Green has just as much fun telling our visitors about their plants and also in offering tours throughout our beautiful garden. We will now have many pigeon pea plants, black tomatoes, and Calendula growers in our DFW area.
In addition to the plants, which we sold, we also gave away seeds. Those seed packets (and also the fact that we are applying for a grant from “Seeds of Change”—an online seed company committed to organic sustainable agriculture) put me on the track again for thinking about the importance of seeds.
Babies and their Mothers love the Garland Community Garden! Loving Garland Green Plant Sale April 1, 2017
Seed Diversity Is Critical to Human Survival
Seeds represent the foundation of life. Not only do we depend upon them for food, we also depend upon them for medicine. Being a good steward of the planet means that we take care to protect seed diversity because seed diversity is critical to human survival. A lot of folks don’t fully understand the criticality of this so, like Walt Whitman, I’ll repeat myself: SEED DIVERSITY IS CRITICAL TO HUMAN SURVIVAL.
Seed Diversity is in serious trouble!
Although agriculture has been part of the human experience for 10,000 years, the privatization of seeds is a recent event on the human horizon and the results are devastating.
According to the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, if you were alive in 1903, you would have been able to choose from more than 500 varieties of cabbage, 400 varieties of peas and tomatoes, and 285 varieties of cucumbers. Eighty years later in 1983, the varieties had dwindled sharply, to just 28 varieties of cabbage, 25 varieties of peas, 79 for tomatoes, and just 16 varieties of cucumbers.
Old-fashioned seed swaps or seed give away events such as the recent Loving Garland Green plant sale are one of the best ways to secure non-GMO, heirloom seeds for your garden. You can try this on your own with friends and neighbors or local gardening clubs. Also the National Gardening Association has an online seed swap that allows you to post either seeds you'd like to share or seeds you're looking for. It's a free service.
Hybrid refers to a plant variety developed through a specific controlled cross of two parent plants. Usually the plants are naturally compatible varieties within the same species. This is a process that also happens naturally in the wild. Developing a non-hybrid, open-pollinated (OP) variety using classic plant-breeding methods takes six to 10 generations.
However, in the mid-19th century Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel developed a method referred to as the “F-1 hybrid.” Unlike the classic method, the F-1 method does not take several generations. It only takes one generation to create the seed.
To create hybrid seeds, seed companies grow two parent lines in the field each year. They designate the male and female plants. They carry out the pollination under controlled conditions such as by hand under row cover. They harvest seeds only from the female plants.
Since the seed from hybrid plants will not produce uniform offspring, the gardener will need to purchase seed once again the next year.
Cell Fusion Hybrid Seed (Cytoplasmic Male Sterility)
This technology is often referred to as “cell fusion CMS”. It is used to create male-sterile breeding lines that are then used to create many common F1 hybrid seed varieties.
Cell fusion CMS does not occur naturally. It is anti-evolutionary. The genes cannot be recovered from cell fusion CMS hybrids. According to standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) “Techniques of genetic engineering include, but are not limited to recombinant DNA, cell fusion, Micro and macro injection, encapsulation.”
Regardless what they call it in the USA, cell fusion is a GMO technique. Seed varieties using this technology are currently allowed on organic farms in the USA and Europe.
Only open-pollinated and naturally produced hybrid seed should be certified as “organic.”
Genetically modified organisms (GMO) is sometimes shortened to 'GM' which means the same thing. GMO seeds are developed using sophisticated technology such as gene-splicing. Unlike the F-1 Hybrid seed development, the GMO development can transfer genes from one kingdom to another. For example, bacteria can be transferred to plants. These high-tech methods essentially create untested organisms that would never emerge in nature. We have no way of knowing their full impact on our food chain until that point in time in the future when it may be too late.
For some crops these GMO seeds can contaminate non-GMO varieties as wind can carry the pollen. To read about other issues surrounding GM crops, see The Threats From Genetically Modified Foods.
Heirloom Seeds -- for the healthiest and most flavorful edibles
So far the experts have agreed that heirlooms are old, open-pollinated plant varieties, but beyond that description, there is some disagreement. Some authorities say heirloom vegetables are those introduced before 1951 while others suggest the 1920’s. Heirloom seeds are more expensive than hybrid seeds. However, you only need to purchase the packet of heirloom seeds once. If you save the seeds each year from your healthiest plants you never have to purchase those seeds again. Heirloom vegetables tend to bruise more easily and can’t be stores for long periods of time, but they are more diverse and flavorful than hybrids.
Solomon, one of the many who stopped by the Loving Garland Green plant sale was interested in the heirloom squash plants. April 1, 2017
What can you do to protect seed diversity?
First of all remember that when a seed is gone, all the genetic code that created that particular plant is also gone. It cannot be duplicated.
There are many things that we can do as an individual to protect seed diversity.
- Old-fashioned seed swaps or seed give away events such as the recent Loving Garland Green plant sale are one of the best ways to secure non-GMO, heirloom seeds for your garden. You can try this on your own with friends and neighbors or local gardening clubs. Also the National Gardening Association has an online seed swap that allows you to post either seeds you'd like to share or seeds you're looking for. It's a free service.
- Buy only heirloom, open-pollinated (OP) and/or organic certified seeds for your garden.
- Buy most of your food from your local farmer’s market
- Stop buying all non-organic processed foods.
- Learn more about two of the 1,300 Seed Banks of the world:
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault
The Millennium Seed Bank
Vote once a day until April 19th for Loving Garland Green, an organization that supports seed diversity, and help us win a grant for money that we can use to increase the number of folks in the DFW area who grow some of the food they eat!