Like Santa, you should check recommended seed seller lists, twice.
The seed starting season is just over the horizon and it looks like the popularity of vegetable gardening, due to the recession, will continue for the foreseeable future. This is good news for seed companies and companies that cater to gardeners. You know who this is bad news for? The Monsanto Company. In 2005 Monsanto purchased Seminis, the largest developer of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world. Many of the seeds you buy at garden centers and nurseries, sold under the brands of various smaller seed companies, come from Seminis.
Vegetable gardening, once the hobby of the olds and the poors, is now very fashionable. You have mommy bloggers, survivalists, foodies, urban homesteaders and people who now want to live sustainable lifestyles, hug farmers and retweet the recent exposé by the AP of Monsanto-- all rubbing elbows with the blue hairs and garden nerds.
These well-meaning individuals are sounding the alarm about the dangers of Monsanto and its army of GMO plants after they read a book or saw a documentary by Michael Pollan. Google "How to avoid Monsanto seeds" or "Boycott Monsanto seeds" and see for yourself. You'll probably come across a list or two that is making the rounds containing the names of companies that buy seeds from Monsanto/Seminis. There are also lists of companies that are "safe" to buy from because they don't sell seeds from Monsanto/Seminis. One such list that is being passed around can be found on a forum called Mothering.com. It was posted by someone called FarmerCathy on 1/08/08 and gives a list of seed companies that are "safe from Monsanto seeds." I'm not a big fan of making lists like this because it reminds me of a darker time in America's history, but I can understand that people who feel passionate about the issue would make them or pass them on.
What concerns me here is that there usually isn't much vetting of the list makers and information contained therein. For example; the safe list I mentioned above recommends buying seeds from Seeds of Change
, yet the parent company of Seeds of Change is Mars Inc. Look at the Seeds of Change website and see if you can find a prominent mention of this on their homepage. There's a major disconnect where companies that purchase seeds from Monsanto are blacklisted while the one owned by the makers of Snickers, is mapping the cacao tree genome
and patent holders of a technology that can keep the colors of M&Ms from bleeding into cookie dough by applying a "thin inorganic coating
," is considered "safe."
I have nothing against Seeds of Change and am at this moment considering buying seeds from them, and to their credit they have pledged to not sell GMO seeds. But, if I was a new gardener concerned about Frankenfoods I'd probably like to know that by buying from them I was supporting a company like Mars, Inc. That information is inexplicably absent from the list of "safe from Monsanto seeds." If you are serious about avoiding Monsanto/Seminis seeds in your garden it isn't as easy as taken what you read on the internet as gospel.
How do you keep your garden safe from seeds produced by Monsanto/Seminis and other companies who are not aligned with your ideology?
You're going to have to do research that's harder than reading lists that have been copied and pasted around the internet.
Step #1 Pick up the phone and call the seed company you want to buy from and ask if Seminis supplies their seeds. If Seminis is their supplier keep looking until you find another seed company.
Step #2 Repeat Step #1 until you find a company that doesn't. Or at least until you find a seed company that carries the particular seeds you want that aren't supplied by Seminis. Some companies may only carry certain seeds from Seminis, and you may end up having to make a moral trade-off if you really want to grow a particular, flower, vegetable or fruit.