Thursday, January 7, 2010

Growing Apart - from Monsanto



I'm not saying that I'll never grow another hybrid, but this year I’m putting a bit more thought into where my seeds come from and trying to grow more heirloom open-pollinated varieties. I'm trying to become more aware of where my seeds are bred, and put more energy into finding organically grown strains.



Lots of the seeds available from catalogs are brokered by bigger companies, which means that many catalogs are offering seeds bred by the giant industry leader Monsanto – and it’s not always apparent which one are when browsing some of the larger seed catalogs. In 1995 Monsanto bought Seminis, and now controls almost 3500 varieties and 40 percent of the US seed market, and the vegetables whose genetics they control are all over our supermarkets. Even Johnny’s Seeds, one of my favorite catalogs, offers a small percentage of seeds from Seminis.

Monsanto can afford to hire high-priced lobbyists that have been able to get legislation passed that makes it illegal for even home growers to save seeds. The film Food Inc does a wonderful job of documenting the way the company has bullied small farmers, and the frightening number of government operatives who are former Monsanto executives, or have other ties to the company.
Why should we let Monsanto or any other big corporation tell the backyard gardener or commercial farmer what seeds she can save? Before seeds were available commercially, anyone who wanted to grow anything did this. But Monsanto is making it harder and harder, narrowing their selection and engineering more and more varieties that resist replicating, and I don't think that's something we should support.

So what brands and products ARE affiliated with Monsanto? First of all, it’s not just seeds. It’s most of the pesticides, fertilzers, and herbicides, like Round Up in your garden center, so be wary of those too. Fedco, Stokes, Rupp, Osborne and Snow are among the other seed suppliers who are known to have ties to the company.  One way to find safer seeds is buy from smaller companies that specialize in heirloom seeds, and if you can find those locally and/or organically grown, even better. In the Gardengirl forums there is a list of a companies that have taken the "Safe Seed" pledge with links to their sites.   You can check for updates to the pledge at the Center for Responsible Geneitics here.


How can you find out what heirlooms and open pollinated varieties do best in your region? Talk to the growers at the farmers market. Network with other local growers through blogs or newsgroups. Join a community garden or gardening club and talk to the other members. We are all part of the experiment. Do your part and buy an experimental heirloom packet or two, save seed, pass it on, share your experience. Think of it as a community service to your fellow gardeners, and blab, blab, blab, about all your favorites! (You can start in the comments section!)

17 comments:

Patti Lacy said...

I'm with ya all the way, girl, and will this year buy little organic plants from a local farmer AND supplement my 2nd year garden with the usual farmer's market bounty!

It's a BIG problem...brought to my attention by the recent dairy act in Ohio. Very sad who people are tricked...

Soulmates, girl. All the way!!!!

Talon said...

It's scary how much power these big corporations have and how their agenda is never anything to do with publich health or safety. The way we're manipulating nature is terrifying.

Thanks for this extremeley informative post, JGH! I'll be paying much closer attention to the source of the seeds I purchase.

tina said...

A scary future when chemical companies control seeds-I don't even want to imagine it.

tut-tut said...

Renee's seeds ROCK! I planted almost exclusively her seeds and was not disappointed last year. As a matter of fact, we have used her seeds since she was in Conn., before she sold her business and then started again in Calif. Her cookbooks are well worth it, JGH.

Joanne said...

I buy my Jet Star tomato seedlings in May from a local farmer's greenhouse, and most of my flower seedlings too. But I never really gave thought to where he might get his seeds for the whole operation. I'll have to ask him in the Spring when I begin roaming the greenhouses. Do you have any themes planned yet for this year's gardens?

Ronda Laveen said...

They are banning the saving of seeds? I had no idea it was getting so cut throat and diabolical. Thanks for this informative post. I've learned a lot from you and your commenters.

midwestgreen said...

good post! thanks, I needed a reminder not to just order the usual from the usual source. I research everything else, time to research my seeds too!

w

AshKuku said...

But don't u think they would be eating the same.... so.... They would reap what they sow... they their family... all will.... But peeps still don't learn from their KARMA..... Why repent later, when u can correct yourself now... & be HAPPY!!!

Ash....
(http://asha-oceanichope.blogspot.com/)

Bangchik said...

engineering varieties that resist replicating?..huh!! I better stick to my own seeds collected again and again ~bangchik

Catskill Snap said...

they can "build a better" fruit or veg and people go crazy-- less seeds! yes we want that! --and they never notice the flavor is lessened too. People can easily make their own insect repellant sprays from safe items already sitting in the kitchen-- but they'd rather spend a tenner on a small spray bottle of something toxic. Sometimes we just don't think things through--thanks for this post. When I'm ready to buy seeds this year I'll do it with care and pass half of them along.

Catskill Snap said...

Richters in Canada has always been where I spend the bulk of my seed and herb plant money.

km said...

What I look for (when I have the room to grow it,or at a farmer's market) is real, actual corn. I don't want my corn on the cob to taste like sugar.
I'll have to look for Richter's, and look for people to swap seeds with.
This is very scary stuff.

PamHMG said...

Just wanted to tell you about another amazing place called Sand Hill Preservation Center in Iowa and their mission is to preserve genetic diversity in farming. I never knew how many different sweet potatoes they have, in fact, will be growin purple sweet potatoes this year.

Stacey said...

Jen, who do you buy your seeds from?

JGH said...

I wish I had time to research all those safe seed pledge places and get their catalogs! I will probably continue with Baker Creek, and John Scheepers. If I have time I'll look into Renee's (did they pledge?) Seedsavers.org, Seeds of Change and Sand Hill, too. Oh - and Richters! Gotta check them out.

Anonymous said...

I used to go to a place near Salisbury Mills, NY (Central Valley Area) called Swissette herb Farm--the woman who runs it is a brilliant nurse and healer--and she told me about richters--she also made some herbal salve for a friend who had a leg wound that simply would not heal-- despite many trips to her doctor
-- the salve healed the wound beautifully--even the doctor was impressed.

sadly Swissette opens and closes with the only notice being a sign on the gate. but if you can get there and visit with the owner, it's a great experience- gardens and greenhouses.

Sophie said...

I like High Mowing Seeds in VT.