Historically, in the UK, seed was produced by small local seed companies. Many farmers, throughout the world, also practised seed saving, and relied on their own saved seeds, indeed many still do. The relatively recent concentration of seed production into fewer and larger companies, combined with the drive to favour commercial needs and agribusiness at the expense of taste, nutrition, and resilience, has meant a dramatic reduction in varieties suited to traditional organic methods and the consequent shrinking of genetic diversity, but also the all important potential for seed long term health and vitality.
Multinational corporations – who also produce chemical pesticides and fertilizers – have concentrated on the development of F1 hybrids and GM seeds because they can be ‘copyrighted’, which means the grower cannot harvest their own seed and so has to return to buy seed every year, and because the grower needs to buy fertilizers and pesticides to crop successfully. The consequent lack of resources spent on open pollinated varieties has meant hugely detrimental effects on living seed biodiversity. The inevitable outcome of ownership of the global food system being concentrated into the hands of the same few companies is a serious food security issue for everyone, and another reason why the future of open-pollinated seeds is so important.
Adaption is the fundamental driver of evolution. Open-pollinated seeds use genetic biodiversity to survive and evolve through natural processes to their local conditions and changes in climate, and thus provide long term security for future food production. They underpin the sustainability of farming systems everywhere. By contrast, F1 hybrid and GM seeds are specifically designed to be unchanging and have no capacity to adapt without human intervention, and hence represent the antithesis of seed sustainability.
It is imperative that we recognize this: it is why open pollinated seeds are so vital for all our futures, and why they should remain available to everyone who grows food.
As open pollinated seeds adapt to the conditions in which they are grown why would you want to use imported seed? However, at present about 85% of the open pollinated organic vegetable seed is imported. In the UK we need a renaissance of UK organic vegetable seed production to ensure our future food security.
David Price, the Seed Co-operative
This exciting and innovative development, arising initially from a Biodynamic Association project is working to provide a future for open pollinated seeds, and ultimately develop a secure base for UK produced open- pollinated organic and biodynamic seed varieties.
Its mission is threefold:
To find out more, click here.