The Seed Ambassadors Project

Bringing Biodiversity Back

Author: Andrew Still (page 1 of 8)

The Control of Seed and Seed Sovereignty

Rye Ramble (from the 2015 Adaptive Seeds Catalog)

The Control of Seed and Seed Sovereignty

At Adaptive Seeds, we talk about our work of Bringing Biodiversity Back. Part of that, of course, is growing and stewarding seed and providing you with good seed stock for your own seed saving efforts. But seed work isn’t only done in the field, and preserving seed sovereignty and freedom takes more than just saving seeds. Working to keep seeds free of control mechanisms, such as patenting, is another important aspect of promoting and preserving agricultural biodiversity, as is building awareness about what seed control mechanisms exist.

We often feel like outliers in the seed world because we wish to keep seed a free, sovereign community asset that is passed down between the generations and between friends. A growing number of people share this pro-sovereignty perspective and we are excited to be part of this community. The more I think about all the different forms of seed control schemes, the more I realize that it is very strange to try to empower seed freedom. It seems like the multinational seed industry is desperately trying to put our collective inheritance into proprietary bondage for the benefit of their shareholders as quickly as possible.

You might think, “Your seeds are not free, they cost money.” So what is meant by free? Like open source software we believe seeds should be, Free as in speech, not as in beer. In a metaphorical sense I see all seed as free and what we get paid for is not the seed per say but the service of stewardship and production of a precious gift. A seed is a living organism that has intrinsic value and a long history, of which we seed stewards have only contributed a small, very recent part. We can’t own that.

Onion flowers at Adaptive Seeds

The concept of seed ownership is problematic in part because it is rooted in entitlement philosophy. As humans we all have a little bit of this philosophy always under the surface. It is a trait that helps us survive in competitive situations of scarcity, but I think it is inappropriate in situations of abundance. As an overt practice it is more common in institutions and businesses (especially in regards to Intellectual Property rights), than in our personal behavior.

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Cell Fusion Hybrid Seed is Creepy

Cell fusion CMS is truly anti-evolutionary and is contributing dramatically to the the loss of agricultural biodiversity in the seed industry, as the genes cannot be recovered from cell fusion CMS hybrids.

What is Cell Fusion? What is a Cytoplasmic Male Sterility (CMS) Hybrid?  Why is it Creepy?

Recently I have been asked by several farmers and seed savers to write up a little something about a technology few people know about that is becoming more and more prevalent in our food system. When I bring it up in passing everyone seems to want to know more and their first question is often, “Why have I never heard of this?”  After discussing it with many other organic farmers a question I always get is, “Is that illegal for organic farming?” I answer by saying “No, not yet at least.” And then predictably they say, “Well, it shouldn’t be allowed.”

Cell Fusion CMS Hybrd Seed

Chicory Flower

This technology has been called “cell fusion CMS” and it is used to create male-sterile breeding lines, which are then used to create many common F1 hybrid seed varieties. These hybrid varieties are found in many seed catalogs and including many hybrid cabbage, broccoli and interestingly Belgian endive among other crops.  The technology has been around for the last few decades and is sometimes called hybrid seed from protoplast fusion cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS). I  have nicknamed it “transgeneric cybrid seed.”  It is a kind of a biotech revision of a naturally occurring breeding technique that now straddles the border of genetic engineering. I said revision because some cytoplasmic male sterility can occur naturally – but cell fusion CMS does not occur naturally.

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Bringing Biodiversity Back

2013 Rye Ramble (reprinted from the Adaptive Seeds printed catalog.)

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Bringing Biodiversity Back for Real, Explained…

We don’t simply write long variety descriptions because it is interesting and we don’t choose rare varieties because they are simply novel.

I feel that seeds, with the biodiversity and cultural knowledge they embody, are a doorway into the mystical realms of our reality. That sounds a little funny and I am not trying to lose you into a woo-woo made-up universe here. I am just trying to explain some reasons for why we do what we do. And predictably every year we discover more reasons for doing this seedy thing.

Frosty FennelWe write long descriptions and choose rare varieties for the sake of conservation, food security, the joy of the experience, and the encouragement from others to continue the hard work; these are all good reasons. But these reasons are like the layers of a leek stem. Every reason we give is a layer of the leek and we keep getting closer and closer to the core. One day we will get to the apical meristem and continue to peel and there will be an empty space where there was a growth point, mysteriously keeping its secrets from us. And yes, this is yet another reason we give ourselves to continue this journey, because we won’t know every reason.

So why do we write these long descriptions when other seed companies write one sentence and sometimes even get the color wrong? What it comes down to for me is that cultural knowledge about seed varieties has eroded even faster than the seed varieties themselves.

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Willamette Winter Gardening Chart

I know it is mid winter and winter gardens get planted in August at the latest, but we have been looking at an acre of winter vegetables and have been inspired to complete a long needed update of this document. It is version 4.0 and full of new info and opinions. Let us know what you think and we will update it like open source software, slowly but surely.

Big Willamette Winter Garden Chart 4.pdf

Seed Saving Guide – 4th Edition

Here is the 4th edition of our Seed Ambassadors Project Seed Saving Guide.

Please download our seed saving guide and share it widely! “A Guide to Seed Saving, Seed Stewardship & Seed Sovereignty”

Seed Saving Zine 4 hand out (3.8 MB PDF) This handout formatted version is your best choice for printing and reading if you do not have one of those fancy zine staplers.

Seed Saving Zine 4 duplex (3.5 MB PDF) This zine formatted version is for printing in a duplex printer and folding into a Zine. That is why the pages seem to be in a weird order. If your printer does not have duplex ability you can print it one page at a time, flipping each page over to print the back side.

Seed Saving Guide 4th edition

 

Enjoy your seed saving adventures

Seed Ambassador demos now on YouTube!

Want to know more about how to save and process seeds from the plants on your farm or home garden? Check out our step-by-step instructional videos on our  YouTube channels:

https://www.youtube.com/user/SeedAmbassadors

https://www.youtube.com/user/adaptiveseeds

We have Sarah starring in a short video on how to save and process mustard seed, a strategy which can also be used on other Brassicas.

We also have a short of Andrew demonstrating tomatillo techniques for a captive audience during a live seed saving workshop at Skinner City Farm in Eugene. The demo shows how to save seed from tomatillos, a process which can also be use on eggplants.

Lastly we have a more recent video demonstrating catnip seed saving.

Subscribe to our seedy YouTube channels to be notified about all newly posted videos. Thanks for tuning in!

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