“A patent on seeds is a patent on freedom.”
– Ka Memong Patayan
It never ceases to amaze me how often the world seems to come full circle. Or maybe how my life and the world often feel closer than 6-degrees of separation. Maybe it’s just ironic that my life and the circumstances in the world are feeling so parallel…or maybe not.
Less than a week ago, 22 agricultural associations, 12 seed businesses and 26 farms and farmers from around the United States filed a legal suit against Monsanto, a US-based agricultural biotech corporation. Monsanto, best know for its Round-Up resistant (yes, Round Up the Herbicide which has been banned in many countries for its impact on all creatures great and small) patented soy beans, corn and cotton seeds, has effectively and efficiently created a monopoly on genetically modified (GM) seeds. With this patent, other farms and farmers not using these seeds run the risk of being sued if the seed is found on their land, even if it was carried via wind, soil or bird poop and it is not beyond Monsanto to sue, threaten or harass small farmers right out of business should this happen. Their claim? Copyright infringement, seed stealing, etc,. This suit, which challenges Monsanto’s rights, would prohibit Monsanto from suing these small farms and seed companies, should they’re land/product/seed become cross-contaminated. (visit http://www.percyschmeiser.com/ for more information on a real life example of the disastrous effects of this reality).
At the same time as all of this is transpiring, I am watching (with joy) as the tiny seeds we planted last weekend have begun to unfurl. The heirloom tomato seeds…the pickling cucumbers…the lemongrass…all at various stages of bloom. Seed to dirt, water, sun, a little heat, some gentle coaxing and voila (!), my fears of failing my family begin to melt away. Such little effort and the fruits of our labor seem so close, I can nearly feel the sweat on my brow as I can a years supply of heirloom tomato sauce. And though I have to believe that my tiny backyard garden will never be affected by seed-bullies like Monsanto, I struggle to understand what this really means for these farmers, the future of agriculture and food production as we know it.
The more and more I read and subsequently, the more and more I learn, I cannot help by feel discouraged by the direction our world is headed in . Naively, I thought I “got it” before we started this project, but I sheepishly must admit, I had no idea the scope or impact of what I would find. And though I feel ‘late for the game’, as it goes to talking about food production and sustainability, I have to say, I think the real conversations have only just begun. Leave it to me to equate singing songs to the tiny seeds on my windowsill with the impact of genetically modified seeds in rural Nebraska, but damn, I’ve gone and done it. And now you, well you’ve got to read about it. What’s your “6-degrees” or parallel process? What does food production mean to your family? And how does the proverbial “we” ensure that Round-Up resistant seeds don’t make it on to our kitchen tables, and into the bellies of our children, because right now, im pretty sure it’s closer than I want it to be. What’s on your table?