The Norman Transcript

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March 15, 2013

If you control the seed, you can control the entire food chain

NORMAN — Have you thought of the miracle that is a seed? Jack Harlan, professor of plant genetics at University of Illinois, talks about seed politics.

I quote from a chapter in “Gathering, Memoir of a Seed Saver” by Diane Ott Wheatly: “The ‘amateurs’ have been the guardians of our genetic resources for some thousands of years. There is no need to stop now, and they have one advantage over institutions: i.e., the true meaning of ‘amateur’ is one who loves or cares. There is no substitute for enthusiasm.”

Seed Savers Exchange has attracted a talented group of amateurs, self-taught experts in fields as diverse as the seeds they are keeping. You and I are or can be talented “amateurs” in the service of collecting, saving and planting heirloom seed and other non-hybrids that are the first link in the food chain.

If you control the seed, you control the entire food chain. Community seed banks, farmer curators and garden curators are going to be what keeps the world alive and keeps the seeds free for all of us to use.

“Give us this day our daily bread” should not be a prayer to a government or corporation such as the chemical monster Monsanto that wants to introduce gene modification (GM) into our corn, soybeans, etc., eliminating the purity of our food supply.

What’s the big difference? What’s the big deal? GMO seeds are “genetically modified organisms,” which is a very broad term. In its most simple terms, it refers to any living thing that has different DNA, no matter how slight, than its parent.

This can happen in nature or in the laboratory. The DNA of each of our parents has combined to make us who we are. You’re not identical to either. This also happens in the plant world. Insects or the weather moves pollen from one plant to the flower of another plant of the same or similar species. The new seed from that plant “mating” produces a new plant different from either of the parent plants. This is a type of hybrid (and so are you).

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