Seed Sovereignty

Did you know that we have lost around 90% of our genetic diversity in the seeds that (grow into the crops that) feed us? Farmers used to save their own seeds and therefore locally adapt them for local conditions, disease resistance and flavour (and any other trait they want to express).

Now, the huge corporate owned seed companies take our genetic seed heritage varieties that our ancestors bred and selected, mix 2 together (called an F1 hybrid), and select hybrid strains for market that are efficient for the chemical and input heavy systems they present to farmers. They have to sign a contract that prevents them from saving those seeds, and they keep the parent varieties a secret. Farmers are locked out of being able to save and breed their own seeds.

Corporations have attempted to take control of every single aspect of our food systems, and are geared to prioritise efficiency and profit – not resilience.

Here at GrG, we only plant open-pollinated seeds. These are varieties that are passed down from our ancestors and are available for us all to grow, and save, and breed from.

I’m setting the scene here, for why we have taken part in some crowd breeding seed projects with the Gaia Foundation, and why seed sovereignty matters.

Currently, we import nearly all of our seeds, and they are bred in faraway lands that have a different climate. The hybrid (and soon to be Genetically Modified) varieties are patented, and the corporations that profit from taking ownership of our seed heritage, are not geared towards creating food-secure and seed-sovereign communities. They have no interest in this because it doesn’t make a profit. If we want food secure communities, if we want to keep the genetic diversity in our seeds that could save crops from future changes in conditions or disease, we have to keep the diversity alive and create more diversity, not less.

So here’s the new thing that we’re moving into that I want to get at:

We are now starting to grow flocks of genetically diverse varieties of promiscuously pollinating plants, called “Landraces”. These collectives of varieties grow together, cross-pollinate each other and quickly become hyper locally adapted, and feel like a revolution in seed saving compared to the current context we find ourselves in. These are hybrids, that are not patentable, and the benefits of crossing so much genetic diversity become evident when you read into it and realise that it takes all of the rules and throws them out the window.

SO we’re excited to experiment, and for us to co-create collections of varieties and breed new ones, with the humans that eat the food. We can select for interesting flavours and colours, for drought or flood resistance (or whatever else comes our way), and we can get veg lovers involved in this curation rather than corporate labs or egotistical plant breeders! Many of the seeds planted this year here were saved last year, and this will increase as we learn more. This year, I will be saving seeds from mixtures of varieties that are planted together, and see what comes our the other side next year! We may create some new shades of beetroot, new shapes of squash, and genes may come to the surface that can weather future storms (figurative and literal) and we can take back control of our food systems from top to bottom.

Please get in touch if you’d like to know more about or get involved in this seed revolution!

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