Why Save Seeds?

Instead of turning to big seed companies, learn about all the benefits that come with saving your own seeds.


| October 2017



tomatoes

Tomatoes ripening on the vine.

Photo by Betsy Trice

In Seed Libraries and Other Means of Keeping Seeds in the Hands of People (New Society Publishers, 2014), author Cindy Conner reveals to readers how seed companies have monopolized the seed market and thus harmed small businesses and the abundance of plant varieties. Conner calls on gardeners to move away from the big businesses and save their own seeds in order to expand the available stock of heritage and heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables through community-based projects. Here, she explains more in-depth about why saving seeds is not just beneficial for the market but also beneficial for the garden.

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Seed Libraries.

Protection from corporate domination is the driving force of most seed saving initiatives today. In Chapter 1, you learned how much control a few companies have over our seed supply. From the seeds comes our food. Whoever owns the seeds controls the food supply. If you remember one thing, remember that. Rather than falling into a black hole of depression over the thought of being controlled by Monsanto or companies like it, we can empower ourselves and save seeds of what we grow and share them with others, keeping them in the public domain and available to everyone. We can opt out of corporate control and build a new system. Say “No thanks, I know there’s a better way.” There are many more reasons for saving seeds besides avoiding corporate domination, although many of these reasons stem from the corporate takeover of seeds.

Preserve Genetic Diversity

A broad genetic base is necessary to keep plant populations strong.

When problems occur or growing conditions change, it is good to have a wide variety of genes in the mix to come to the rescue. It’s dangerous to depend on only a few varieties of a crop. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. A variety known for its huge yields won’t produce them every single year. Growing different varieties evens out the yield, with some doing best in one year and some doing best in another.

History has shown us what happens when we ignore genetic diversity in our plantings. The most well-known example is the Great Irish Famine that occurred when blight attacked the potatoes in 1845, continuing to affect the harvest into 1849. Genetic diversity was certainly lacking in Irish potatoes, with the harvest coming from mainly one variety, making it easy for the fungus to spread. Problems in Ireland began long before the potatoes died. The land system that had developed as a result of wars and politics left Irish laborers and their families in poverty, often existing solely on potatoes. Other food was grown in Ireland and even exported during this time; politics, such as they were, preventing it from being shared with the hungry. Some of you reading this are probably descendants of the 1.5 million Irish who left their homeland to escape the famine. The blight affected potatoes in other European countries, but it was the Irish peasants who were the most dependent on potatoes for their nourishment. You can find out more about the Great Irish Famine in the book Black Potatoes by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.





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