The Boycotting of Monsanto-Seminis Seeds

Hand on allium seed pod.png
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. 
You should also learn to collect and save your own seeds or try buying some cool heirloom varieties of the veggies you want to grow. Don't judge me too badly when you see me at Home Depot buying Burpee seeds, a gardener has to do what a gardener has to do.  

Comments

Leave a comment
  • Corn has been GMO for years, as have some tomatoes and potatoes. I'm as green as the next person (probably greener but I don't tend to be quite as vocal as many) and I have no objections to GMOs... but I do believe in fair labeling and fair competition and on that score Monsanto may be lacking to what it has offered/charged farmers.

    But my main point is, I hate politics--in government, at the office, and online. I hate that gardening has become political and fashionable.

    But I do like seeds and I'm going to be winter sowing as soon as I figure out where to buy marrowfat peas!

    R-a-m-b-l-i-n-apostrophe, rambling!

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Hi,

    I think we've talked about how you're ok with GMOs in a previous comment thread. I'm conflicted. I'm for them when I think of the possibilities of easing hunger around the world. I'm against them when I think about the possible dangers that we don't know about that arise from people eating these fruits and vegetables.

  • This sounds like FUD. I don't think Monsanto or any company is trying to sell home gardeners GMO seeds. I don't think most even sell hybrids. They are meant for large-scale intensive agriculture. If I am mistaken please post a link where my grandmother can buy Roundup Ready BT peas.

  • In reply to zigster:

    Zigster,

    The reply I'd like to make to your comment would probably be long enough to be a blog post all by itself. So, I'll just touch on a couple of points.

    1. Your grandmother wouldn't have to grow Roundup Ready BT peas. She could be growing a standard pea and it could be contaminated by a farmer down the road who is growing Roundup Ready BT peas. For an example Google Percy Schmeiser. The wind and pollinators don't know the difference between GMO pollen and pollen from other sources.

    2. It sounds like you're conflating GMOs and hybrids. Your grandmother can certainly go to the garden center and buy plants and seeds that are hybirds. A hybrid is not the same thing as a genetically modified organism and hybrids are perfectly fine plants in many instances.

    3. If your grandmother has eaten as salad whose ingredients weren't comprised of only heirloom varieties grown by some tiny farmer, chances are she's eaten a Seminis product. We all have. Now, if your grandmother doesn't like the idea of supporting a company who tinkers with the genetics of what she eats or can grow herself, then she'd probably want to avoid supporting that company at all costs. Ultimately, the point of this post is that those who do NOT want to support Monsanto/Seminis need to do more research than just reading what is posted on message boards, Email chains and do your own research. I thought that was clear-I even went so far as to making these parts bold to stand out from the regular text, in anticipation of people like yourself.

    If you have an idea of what I can do to make that even clearer let me know, I'm open to suggestions.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • Great, another article written by a "Green Religion" zealot crapping their faith based politically charged factless religion on the rest of us who just want to have a hobby!

    Or is it anything goes to get published?

  • In reply to iBhereNow:

    Hi Bill,

    It sounds like you didn't read anything in this post beyond the title.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • In reply to iBhereNow:

    Bill - you clearly have never met MBT. And, as he said, you obviously didn't read the article AT ALL. I hate morons, Bill.

    MBT - I just wanted to mention that if you save your own seeds you may want to keep that to yourself if they are Monsanto ones, because that one crazy black plant lady may not sue you, but Monsanto will! ha ha. No really, great article. I really enjoyed it. And I'll definately be calling Botanical Interests to make sure they really are "safe". We are planning a fundraiser with them to support our community garden and I wouldnt be able to do that in good conscience if I knew they were in any way affiliated with Monsanto.

  • In reply to ginthom:

    Gina,

    It isn't even an issue of "meeting" me, that person hasn't read anything I've ever written besides this post. If he had he'd know that I'm not in the habit of telling people what they should do or who they should support. I don't like it when people do that with me, so I try not to do it with people who happen across my blog(s).

  • In reply to ginthom:

    Spot on. I've been thinking a lot lately about how a lot of information on the interwebs is oversimplified, out of date,(that may be the case with the list from '08 /Seed Savers), or completely wrong (honeybees dying by cell phone). I liked the concise response to "Bill"

  • In reply to Sydney:

    I want to give the makers of these lists that I'm speaking about the benefit of the doubt, but SoC sold itself to Mars in 1997, seems like plenty of time for news of the sale to get around. Another list floating around the internet is of smaller seed companies rumored to be owned by Monsanto, some of them flat-out deny the rumor and others deny carrying any Seminis seeds, yet the lists keep propagating on the internet. With the advances of the internet, some of these places have Google alerts and will respond or a gardener in the know will show up and correct the erroneous post. Oftentimes though, that doesn't happen for months after the original post has been up.

    I would've linked to those or woven them into the post like I originally planned, but as you know some people don't read everything and doing so may just pass on the Monsanto association rumors to a whole new (pardon the pun) crop of gardeners.

    Thanks for commenting Sydney.

  • In reply to Sydney:

    Hort_man - if GM food is so good for us then why does Monsant continue to lobby AGAINST slapping a label on that says it's a GMO?

  • In reply to ginthom:

    Currently Seminis, which sells nearly exclusively to commercial vegetable growers, only sells one GM product, virus resistant squash in a fairly small market in the S.E. United States. If it were not for these varieties, which are similar technically to the GM virus resistant papaya developed by the USDA in Hawaii, there would be few squash grown commercially in the Southeast. Seminis does not sell ANY other GM vegetables, contrary to myths you see on the web. Syngenta does sell a GM sweet corn.

    Percy Schmeiser by the way is a crook, just ask the Canadian Supreme court who convicted him. NOT from any far fetched wind blown pollination but for saving and using patented RR technology subsequent years without paying a license fee he agreed to during his first purchase. This man is a con artist who has spun the most amazing story, which only a devotee would believe.

    Before deciding on boycotting all Monsanto technology perhaps spending a little time researching GM technology and the benefits it brings in pesticide reduction, reduced fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emission by commercial agriculture. Most of what is on the web is made up by anti GM activists who believe anything bad they hear about Monsanto like it is a religion. Check out the web site; http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php it seems fairly unbiased. The only thing it didn't say is the bt corn used in the Monarch Butterfly study came from Syngenta and was a genetic event which was phased out. The event had much higher pollen expression than any other Bt event sold.

  • In reply to bamart1952:

    Hort_man,

    Thanks for the reply.

    "If it were not for these varieties, which are similar technically to the GM virus resistant papaya developed by the USDA in Hawaii, there would be few squash grown commercially in the Southeast."

    That's a good point, but isn't the issue really that if it were not for monocultures we probably wouldn't have the problem with plants that aren't resistant to diseases that lead to the necessity of growing GMOs?

    I don't know if I want to go down the rabbit hole that is the discussion on Schmeiser, lol.

    The agreement that Monsanto & Syngenta came too recently ( http://www.syngenta.com/en/media/mediareleases/en_080523.html )troubles me more than what you describe as benefits make me feel good about the technology.

    BTW, it is hard not to notice how intelligent and reasoned your reply is when compared with the the second and third reply this post generated. You wouldn't happen to work in the field would you? It is OK if you do and also OK if you'd rather not say- I've commented on one of Monsanto's blogs once or twice myself and am OK with reps or employees of companies posting here if we can all be open and honest about it. The only time I'd censor a post here is if it is blatant spam.

  • In reply to bamart1952:

    Well written Hort_man.

    You can also see Seminis' list of dealers at the following website - http://us.seminis.com/products/dealer.asp ...research, research, research.

    I also found Monsanto's side of the Percy Schmeiser ordeal - http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto_today/for_the_record/percy_schmeiser.asp

    Like everything, there are two sides of the story & then the truth...

  • In reply to bamart1952:

    Excellent post MBT. I enjoyed reading the comments too. Personally I'm staunchly against GMOs, and make every reasonable effort to avoid them when possible.

    I generally keep my politics to myself, but growing up during the Viet Nam era, and spending middle childhood living down the street from a Monsanto factory, y'all will have to excuse me if I'm a bit biased in my opinion of this way-too-powerful corporate giant that's been in our federal government's pocket way to long. My biggest dissapointment with Obama to date is his perpetuation of this unfortunate, unholy alliance.

  • In reply to bamart1952:

    it is my understanding that monsanto acquired Seminis. Seminis is divided into two areas of distribution
    1) Commercial vegetable crops like you would see row crops of bell peppers, tomatoes, etc
    2) Garden Products that are sold to greenhouse growers/garden centers which are essentially bought by the comsumer as transplants for their garden.

    there may be items in their listing that are inevitably sold to packet seed houses, that re-package them into smaller, home grower sized envelopes (i.e. Pepper Bell Boy or Tomato Burpee Big Boy).

    What concerns me is that there is no evidence that any of the Garden Products that could eventually be sold to homeowners (via garden center plants or seed packets) have any GM breeding in them. I am aware that their products are hybrids, but unaware of any Garden Products in this GMO class.

    I may have missed the link or mention in the posts that references the Seminis Garden Products that are GMO - is there a product that they are offering that fits this criteria and is offered in Garden Centers.

    For the record, I do not work for seminis or monsanto. But I do know how much harm can be caused when we become so alarmed that we need to 'call around' and suggest to 'only buy from companies that do not sell monsanto/seminis products'. isn't that like the crying wolf when you do not even know what a wolf looks like?

    if you want to choose to buy GMO products or not should be an easy choice - but provide a list of items that contain GMO's and subscribe to not buying those varieties. Not the idea that Monsanto develops and distributes GMO products and therefore all of the products they distribute (i.e.Tomato Burpee Big Boy) should not be bought.

  • In reply to otherhortman:

    Hi Madge,

    I'll repeat what I said above in another comment. If someone is the kind of person who doesn't like what science is currently doing to the food supply, then they are likely to not want to support companies who are modifying plants, in any way. The information is for those kinds of people.

    The responsible thing would be to call around and check with the companies you do business with, and based on that information decide if you want to support them and ultimately the company you are against.

    Your idea about creating lists sounds good on the surface, but...if I don't want to buy GMO why would I'd want to buy other products the company makes? It would be rather hypocritical, no? The other thing is that these lists are often wrong or outdated and some activists, bloggers and writers don't seem to care much about doing research besides copying/pasting information they find on the internet.

    For example: There is lists on various places around the internet with companies that are supposedly owned by Monsanto. One such lists mentions Johnny's Selected Seeds. If people were to do what I suggest, calling the company and asking for themselves, they would learn that Monsanto DOES NOT OWN JOHNNY'S SElECTED SEEDS. See how easy it is to just ask and not rely on inaccurate information people cobble from other places?

    When you visit that link you'll also learn there is a horticultural sweet corn and summer squash that contains engineered traits. Could there be more? Probably.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • In reply to ginthom:

    Gina,

    I asked Shayna on Twitter if they carried Seminis seeds & she says the only one they carry is "Celebrity" tomato because they're the only source of it and it is a popular tomato.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    Whoever told you that was full of it. Most hybrids of original cultivars are not patented and can not be. Seminis is not the only provider of that strain unless it contains any type or organism they added which in the lab will show it is their cultivar. Also just so you know in the UK we are aware and made to know. In America congress sides with the companies and agrees with them in the fact that you dont need to know what food is gmo or cloned or not

  • In reply to Brian Quick:

    Ok, Mr. trained botanist, who else besides Seminis produces "Celebrity" tomato seeds?

  • fb_avatar

    Just came across this article and though it is old I will leave infor for the next lot to read it. Fact is the author was right on some things and wrong on another. The most important is Mars corp owning seeds of change. Yes they do own the company but the reality is that they DO NOT SELL SEEDS!!!! They purchased it just like mercedes bought Dodge, but that does not mean that mercedes sells ram 1500's. Truth is that MArs bought seeds of change, seized all computers and data and FIRED EVERYONE except a few higher ups they moved to losangeles. How do I know this? I am a botanist, plant nutrition specialist as well as hydroponic agriculturist. I am not a hobbyist, I am a professional and this is how I make a living, doing consulting work for universities all the way to the little guy. So it is my job to know what seed company is doing what.

  • In reply to Brian Quick:

    LOL, how can Mars own SOC and not sell their seeds? You don't need to be a botanist to know that SOC moved to L.A. after the company was bought by Mars. It's public knowledge.

Leave a comment

  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Advertisement:
  • Subscribe Via RSS

  • Search My Garden Blogs

    Google Custom Search
  • Find Me on Facebook

  • Subscribe By Email

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

  • Planting Poppy Seeds

  • Categories

  • Monthly Archives

  • Advertisement:
  • Fresh Chicago News