Seed sharing at the Bioneers Conference. Photo by Jan Mangan
Open-pollinated seeds embody genetic information developed over thousands of years of adaptation – allowing food crops to respond dynamically, season after season, to a variety of environmental conditions.
People and plants have co-evolved together, and the knowledge stored in seeds is a result of that symbiotic relationship. Seed saving and adaptation, by farmers selecting seeds from the plants that have the characteristics they most desire (flavor, stature, yield, resistance to drought, etc.), are the very genesis of agriculture.
10,000 years ago, the first farmers gathered seed heads from wild grasses in the Middle East and cultivated them. That process of selection and breeding has continued ever since, evolving those seeds into today’s modern wheat varieties. As plants and seeds respond to human stewardship, people are rewarded with an abundance of more flavorful and resilient crops, ensuring food security and allowing civilizations to flourish. The cultural story differs with each plant, but the process is essentially the same.
Grassroots knowledge and skills have traditionally driven this dynamic legacy, but consolidation of the seed industry, corporate control of seed supply, and patenting of seeds is robbing the public of its seed sovereignty.
You can reclaim democratic grassroots control of seeds by actively participating in the ongoing, 10,000 year-old practice of saving and sharing seeds at the Bioneers Seed Exchange. Master seed savers host this annual event, sharing seeds as well as their extensive horticultural knowledge.
For information on the state of seeds, listen to this short excerpt from Matthew Dillon of Seed Matters at Bioneers 2012, on how grassroots seed saving is an important political act:
And check out Living Seeds’ interviews with master seed savers, from a Bioneers seed-saving intensive: