NOURISH | Freedom Starts with Sowing Your Own Seeds
On May 24, 2013, 71 U.S. senators voted against an amendment to the Senate version of the 2013 Farm bill, which would have guaranteed states the right to enact mandatory GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling laws. These 71 senators voted against the 90% of consumers who want labels on foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. Genetically modified food has been linked to a wide variety of ailments from allergies to kidney failure to cancer. For people who care about food safety and food sovereignty, this senate decision was a disappointment.
In lieu of this recent decision, noted herbalist Wolf D. Storl and leading environmental and anti-globalization activist Dr. Vandana Shiva met to discuss some ways in which we can continue to stand for food democracy (check out the video at the end of this article). Shiva stresses the importance of community seed banks and how seeds must be for the commons. These “seeds of hope” help serve organic farmers and stand in opposition to seed manipulators and corporations. Traditional seeds have grown out of thousands of years of adaptation. They are bred for nutrition and are tolerant to drought and the elements. Many corporations try to control seeds and ban local seeds in favor of GMO seeds. As a result, the individual farmer becomes a consumer instead of a preserver of important traditional seeds. These corporations are also preventing us from knowing about the harmful effects of the GMO seeds on the soil and the environment.
If we are denied labeling, we will not know what is happening to our health. Shiva stresses that the right to know what we are eating is fundamental to democracy and to our life. True food democracy is outlined as farmers having seeds and being able to grow their own food on their own terms. We can all contribute by adopting a seed and making sure that the seeds we adopt are open-pollinated, meaning pollinated by natural mechanisms like insects, birds, or the wind. Many communities have even established seed libraries. Here in the Bay Area, residents can “check-out” seeds from the library and take them home to plant. After they have harvested their crops, they save the seeds from the heartiest of their harvest and return them to the same branch. You can start a seed sharing branch at your local library or among your friends and neighbors or join the Seed Savers Exchange as an alternative to big agriculture and GMO-laden seeds. Furthermore, we can all contribute by eating organic, eating local, and educating ourselves to the best of our ability about what is in our food and where it comes from.
For more suggestions on how to grow delicious, healthy produce with organic seeds in your own backyard. Check out Wolf D. Storl’s book Culture and Horticulture.