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Gardening with Laurie: Seed war serious business

By By Laurie Garretson
March 20, 2014 at midnight
Updated March 19, 2014 at 10:20 p.m.

Laurie Garretson

Once upon a time, many years ago and long before farming was known, humans only had naturally occurring wild plants and animals to eat. Once they ate all the wild grasses and animals they could find available in one area, they'd move on to another area.

This meant a lifetime of moving in search of food. Over time, these early humans discovered that if they left some of the wild grasses they ate laying on the ground, more would grow from the seed heads. Primitive varieties of wheat and barley are believed to be their first-discovered crops.

When these early humans discovered this means of farming, it allowed them to settle in one area and form sedentary communities. Being able to save seeds from each season's crops helped them live a more secure lifestyle. No more wandering for food.

Humans have grown food from seeds since farming was discovered. Even today, many people in developing countries still need to save seeds to feed their families or starve.

Many of today's gardeners are unaware of a seed war that has been happening for several years.

There are a handful of large companies that own the majority of seed companies in the world. It appears they intend to take over as many seed companies as they can.

This makes it very difficult for small companies to stay in business. The big companies' objective appears to be control of all seeds grown in the world. Control of our food supplies would give them a lot of power.

As these big companies buy up smaller companies, they quickly get rid of less than popular seed varieties. Usually the first seed varieties the big companies get rid of are the open-pollinated and heirloom types.

These are the types of seeds that can be saved to grow another season; hybrid (man-made) seeds will not come back true to the original plant. It seems they only tend to keep seeds that they own and can control like genetically modified seeds. By getting rid of heirloom and open-pollinated seeds, they will have complete control over all their seeds.

In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a life form, in this case, seeds, could hold a patent based on its genetic coding. With this patent, these very large companies can eventually own the majority of all the seeds in the world.

The impact of all this is enormous for farmers and gardeners. Saving seeds like people have done for centuries will be illegal if the plant variety is patented. We will have to buy fresh, genetically-modified seeds every year. If the wind were to blow pollen from a patented plant onto an organic crop and pollinate some of it, the organic grower then has patented seeds and can be and has been successfully sued by guess who?

The impact of all this is astronomical. If you grow hybrid variety seeds, expect to pay more each year for them. If you grow any open-pollinated or heirloom varieties, become a seed saver. You might want to get familiar with the Seed Savers Exchange. We just don't have many other choices.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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