Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Food for Thought, The Morality of Buying Seeds

You know the saying "ignorance is bliss"?  Well I tend to believe in that one 100%.  Take for instance  my latest 'discovery'........when googling Hansel and Fairytale in an effort to decide on which seed variety to order from Johnny's Selected Seeds, I came across a list of 40 varieties that Seminis supplied to them in 2009, and both varieties were on it.  As you may already know Seminis is Mansanto owned.  I knew Johnny's had one leg in bed with Mansanto from this connection, but I also knew the majority of their seeds come from other sources, and they have been making an effort to replace the Seminis varieties with an alternatives when they can, so it was not enough to scare me away from an otherwise fantastic company.  The bottom line is that Johnny's is there to provide seeds to us consumers, and if small farmers and home gardeners want and love Fairytale Eggplant, than somebody is going to sell the seed to us, and I am glad they do.  It is all about choices people, and I like having them.

  (Reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle made me look into this quite a while back.  I am huge Kingsolver fan, but I think she unfairly exaggerated the connection between Mansanto and many small seed companies in her book.  For anyone interested in learning more about this there is some reading to be done, I will post links at the bottom of the page.)

So here is where my conscience comes into play.......I have been ordering from various seed sources over the years, and I tend to spread my seed buying dollars around.  Baker Creek, Fedco, and Johnny's are my top three favorites and I frequent them the most when adding to my 'personal stash'.  Johnny's is the only one with big "M" tie, the others refuse to play that game......but Johnny's also offers many F1 varieties the other catalogs don't, and for a small gardener like me, that is advantageous.  So this coming year I am short on space, more than usual.  And I know I can only grow one eggplant.  So I want a dwarf, high yielding variety- and guess who owns all the patents on that category?  Yup.  Seminis/Mansanto.  And now I know.

So you might say 'well duh, just order something else'.  And I probably will do this, or just use OP seed I already have and expect lower yields from my single plant.  But then I got to thinking about all of those veggies I buy at farm stands and farmer's markets.  I know I have bought these little AAS winning hybrid eggplants in the past.  What else am I buying from Mansanto, knowingly or not?

Anything non-organic that comes in a box or bag has an almost certain chance of coming from Mansanto corn, soy, or canola.  The *&%! is in everything.  Which brings me back around to voting everyday with my dollar.  I choose pay more for organic food because I care where it comes from, care what was put out in the environment in order to grow it, and I don't want to feed GMO crap to my kids, period.  But lets be honest, I have no-name brand canola oil in the cabinet and occasionally a bag of Doritos makes it into the shopping cart.  So do I avoid the seed variety I want because the $2.00 I spend on it has some percentage being kicked back to the big monster for royalties on the patent on principle, or do I support a local seed company I believe in, and grow the dang veggies I want?  And now that I have been connecting all the dots, do I ask growers where the seed comes from before buying their produce at the market?  One could certainly get carried away with all of this.  What do you think?  Where do you stand with all of this, does it even concern you?

Further reading/Food for Thought:


Erin said...

Great post Kelly. I'm with you for the most part. I refuse to deal with the "biggie offenders", but if a company offers choices in order for them to stay afloat and to give customers what some of them need, and those choices are clearly labeled or on another "page" than I am okay with that. There is clearly a need for some people to choose modified/hybridized versions of things for different reasons. I believe it is up to the customer to be educated about such things and make their choices accordingly. Most avid gardeners stay informed and thus can choose for themselves. My big beef remains with huge factory farms "forced" to use the system and the unaware American public as a whole... I could ramble on LOL...

Kelly said...

So you (like most of us) buy Mansanto goods on a daily basis and just deal with it right? I may make it a goal to try and go GMO-free for the New Year. It will be difficult, and costly.....but I truly believe in the cause so I shouldn't buy a standard bell pepper from the grocer EVER, and I shouldn't buy regular old canola oil EVER. Unless it says organic or non-GMO I may not being buying it. The list of franken-foods is truly frightening, 80% of peppers at market are Mansanto in origin I have read. Vomit.

Kelly said...

(I meant to say Mansanto & GMO free.)

It just sucks, it is everywhere.

Erin said...

Actually, I've been lucky in the produce dept, today was the first time in over a year I have bought anything there, I needed carrots and celery for my stock today and didn't have any! I'm pretty gung ho about that, but you are right, it's hard to do anything about the oils, cereals, on and on....! I think we should at least strive to do better every time we shop, which is more than the average consumer does (who are we kidding, we are already WAY more conscious than the average consumer just because we are aware of what goes into growing produce!)

Kelly said...

Good for you Erin, I still buy produce every week most of the year. You should really be proud of how much you grow for your family- ITS AWESOME!

I generally assume it if it organic it is GMO free, but then maybe I am way off base there. I don't buy boxed cereal, BUT non-organic oil, tortillas, and cheese are in my cart all the time. Organic cheese is so expensive, I buy organic milk & yogurt and call it a compromise. Sigh, guess I need to suck it up and buy less cheese to avoid the soy and starch additives in the standard stuff.

Robin said...

Kelly, It's amazing how much "franken-food" as you call it, is out there. It's really frightening what most people are consuming in this country! We try to be as organic and GMO free as possible. However, it can be very expensive and sometimes hard to find.

With regard to the seeds, it can be very difficult and sometimes impossible to find a variety that you want that has not been modified at some point. I guess we need to do the best we can to preserve the integrity of our food by growing "real food"!!

Here's a good source for some interesting seeds with some background

Kelly said...

Well said Robin, and great link. I bought some seeds from her in the past, there are some unique offerings on that site!

Sue said...

Great post, Kelly.
It's getting harder and harder to avoid "FrankenFood"---in ALL forms. Right down to the seeds, they have to mess with us.

I think places like Seed Savers is going to be the only choice left after awhile. Hopefully THAT won't be taken from us as well.

Kelly said...

AAAHHH!!! I am so on the fence with all of this! On the one hand I despise the big M so want no affiliation w/them at all in any of my seeds, but on the other hand I am trying to grow as much food as possible, and any of those little hybrids will grant me that wish. I think I need to be alright with buying one these hybrids if I choose to, ALL of my previous seed ordering ($38.00 worth) for 2012 came from Fedco, so it is clean of ties.

I hope everyone checked out the 'further reading' section, it really is interesting stuff, and thank-you for sharing your thoughts- I do appreciate it!!