Thursday, July 9, 2009

Seeds and Government Involvement

Yesterday I was reading, Seed Sowing and Saving, by Carole B. Turner. I like the idea of saving seeds. I'm not much good at it. Mostly because of the adult ADD thing I laugh about suffering from. I save any number of seeds each fall from my garden or the gardens of friends. But each year, come spring I have no idea where any of them are. Each time I deep-clean an area of my house, I am sure to find an envelope or zip-lock bag of seeds. But sure enough, by the time I need them, they have all disappeared into the morass of my clutter again .

Here is a quote from the above mentioned book that gave me pause. This is from a definition of and explanation for heirloom seeds.
Since the issue of seed saving has been a low priority for most of our elected officials, seed exchanges were set up as a grass-roots effort to preserve plants that have played an important roll in our heritage and may even end up feeding us in the future.
OK, I have just so many responses to this. I suppose, for any Three Amigos fans, one could say that I have a plethora of thoughts in response to this sentence. Here are a few that come to mind straight away.
  1. Good, one area in which the government has shown restraint. I didn't know there was any such area.
  2. So what the author is showing is that if a need or desire for something exists and the government does nothing, that need or desire can still be met. Creative people, getting together, pooling their resources, can get the job done.
  3. And, alas, the book was written in 1997, before the Millennium Seed Bank was established.
This last point deserves additional explanation. The Millennium Seed Bank is an international organization dedicated to collecting the seeds of all plant varieties around the world and preserving them. Depending upon from which site you garner your information there is a bit of variation on that mission. Some places I read state that the goal is to collect seeds of endangered plant varieties for research and native plantings. Another site I read listed as the goal the collection of seeds from all plant varieties in order to provide a necessary restart to nutritional foods in case of a world-wide disaster.

I have nothing against any of this. If I stretch, I can even imagine an argument for the necessity of this as a matter of national interest. Ie, in case of a nuclear disaster, the gov't could then provide untarnished seeds for replanting uncontaminated ground.

So what's my problem? This same goal can be accomplished without government interference. The United States official affiliate with the Millennium Seed Bank, Seeds of Success, is managed through the Bureau of Land Management. There are many independent organizations from around the world involved. From the Seeds of Success website:
The initial partnership between BLM and MSB quickly grew to include many additional partners, such as botanic gardens, arboreta, zoos, and municipalities.
Again, there are always non-government groups and individuals pulling things together and filling needs. And usually it works better that way.

Let's go, for a moment, with the argument that a national seed bank is important for national sustenance in case of some major disaster. I did a quick species search on the SOS website. That would be the very extensive list of seed samples they have in the collection. I searched for Zea mays, or corn. Nothing. The seeds are filed by ecoregions. I searched many regions. I even did a little research on the history of corn, since I know it to be a native plant. After reviewing what I thought to be the original ecoregion for corn, I searched a few more regions. Nowhere in this expansive data base could I find a record of a corn seed having been saved. Lots of prairie flowers and noxious weeds and hardwood trees. No record of this staple of American diet.

I didn't check wheat since I figured it would not be considered native to our area. I think it's of Middle Eastern origin.

I guess there goes my hope that if the government is spending our hard earned tax dollars, that they could at least have a valid national security concern at heart.

And I guess I did not have a plethora of responses to the above quote after all. I think three would only be considered a few or several. But definitely not a plethora. It seemed like more when they were all colliding in my brain.

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