Since the dawn of agriculture, humans have been saving and propagating the seeds of their crops from one season to the next. With the advent of industrial agriculture, it has become much more common for farmers to purchase their seeds from large agribusiness corporations like Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and others. Some believe that this shift, which is shrinking the diversity of seeds being planted and propagated for the future, may lead to a less secure, less resilient global food system.
In Germany, the Global Crop Diversity Foundation was established with a mission to increase food security through maintaining crop diversity.
Their website explains that:
> Crop diversity is one of the world’s least recognized but most valuable resources. Individual crop varieties, such as the 200,000 varieties of wheat, have different traits for drought or heat tolerance, nutritional quality, disease resistance and every other possible characteristic.
In extreme weather events such as the drought of 2012, we’ve seen the rise of herbicide resistant superweeds and toxic mold infiltrating U.S. corn crops. With all these converging pressures on our food supply, it’s become clear that a diversity of crops will be vital to maintaining and increasing food production into the future. CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) can be one way to help maintain diversity and stabilize the market for small farmers, seed sharing and seed diversity is another.
Diane Ott Whealey is the founder of Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit, member-supported organization whose mission is to “conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.”
Whealey told the Chicago Tribune that “It’s our responsibility to pass on their genetic value and the stories that go with them. Seed Savers is maintaining 24,000 varieties of heirloom seeds that otherwise might be lost.”
Seed Savers Exchange has been around since the late 1970s, but a more recent nationwide seed sharing project was recently launched by a group called Eating in Public. Founded by two University of Hawaii professors, Gaye Chan and Nandita Sharma, Eating in Public is trying to put seed sharing back into the public consciousness by creating pop-up seed sharing stations across the U.S.
In libraries, community centers, coffee shops and other public spaces, Eating in Public will set up a seed sharing station with pencils, a stapler, recycled envelopes, and 50 packs of seeds. The idea is that people can bring seeds to share or take seeds to plant at will, all for free.
First and foremost a consciousness-raising exercise, the Eating in Public seed stations help to bring public awareness to the practice of sharing seeds and home gardening. To feed our growing population into the future, we will need to increase the availability of food significantly. Sustainable America is committed to increasing the availability of food in America by simultaneously increasing food production and decreasing food waste. By focusing on these areas, we aim to build a more resilient more sustainable food system for our nation.