Seed Activism In a recent study titled “Seed Freedom: A Global Citizens Report,” Shiva’s research showed the ways that genetic contamination is rapidly spreading and, specifically, how India has lost organic cotton seed varieties due to contamination by Bt Cotton. The report also points to other places, like Mexico, facing similar challenges. “Mexico, the historical cradle of corn, has lost eighty percent of its corn varieties,” according to the report. It is in the face of this global scourge, Shiva hopes, that organic seed banks will help create a different future. Worldwide, these banks operate on various scales, with distinct forms of operations and funding. SeedSavers.org, for instance, offers an alternative model to biotech-fueled agriculture through “participatory preservation of organic seeds” among its members to ensure the planet maintains a “genetically diverse food supply.” The group, headquartered in Decorah, Iowa, operates one of the largest seed banks in North America where it works with farmers and gardeners to secure heirloom varieties of seeds. Each year thousands of seed varieties are exchanged among “backyard preservationists” through the group’s Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook, which helps members find varieties suited to their particular region and source material to use in localized breeding projects. Their preservation methods keep open-pollinated and heirloom seeds circulating among gardeners and farmers, making those varieties available to everyone. Crowd-sourced Seed Banks As people send in seeds, these banks are becoming a sort of crowd-soured preservation of seeds that are in the danger of being lost. The Bay Area Seed Interchange Library, located at the Berkeley Ecology Center, is another example. Here, people “check out” seeds, grow them, let some plants sow seed, then return those seeds to the library to share with other gardeners. Meanwhile, the message in some mainstream media appears to be catching on. As the Daily Mail reported in October, scientists are increasingly joining forces to challenge industry claims that genetically modified food is safe for humans. As scientists and farmers already know, organic seed banks may be our best investment against bio-piracy and the poisoning of our global food supply. Now, it is up to governments like India, the U.S. and nations around the world to pass laws pushing back against biotech giants like Monsanto to preserve our collective future.
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