‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good’
I guess that in a ‘religious timeline’, the worlds’ religions would match the above quote to the time there was an absolute balance in the universe. In the yogic scriptures that would be when the three primary forces of creation; Light, Darkness and Energy (Sattva, Tamas and Raja) were at equal levels – kind of canceling each other out. Not much was really happening at that time. The equivalent of Adam and Eve just strolling around in their garden.
The trouble starts when Adam bites the apple and BANG! Everything falls out of balance. The three forces start expressing themselves and everything in the universe is a combination of them in different proportions. Every planet, every plant, every person, every thought has the exact three qualities in different distributions. Thus resulting in the rich diversification of ‘stuff’ that is present around us.
This constant diversification has been the key to a healthy state of being throughout the millennia. As living organisms constantly evolve to the environment they find themselves in, they become more complex and more inter-dependent on each other.
It wasn’t long before we realized that the evolutionary process can somewhat be shaped to fit our needs. Cross breeding of animals and plants allowed us to select favorable traits and use them to our advantage. This ‘engineering’ transformed our way of living for good. Farmed crops could produce more and were more resistant to disease. Animals were domesticated in order to help and protect us. The nomadic way of life was over and we could focus on other things like science, pretty pottery, or pillage the neighboring village.
It was a win-win situation. We benefited from our ingenuity and contributed to nature with a never ending variety of seeds and grains. And it was very good.
Different regions across the globe would have specific varieties that were perfected to the conditions. The plants would have different requirements in things like water, drought resistance, soil acidity, altitude, etc making them unique to the region. The differences also applied to the size, color, nutritional value and taste of the fruit.
Fast forward a few thousand years and we still find agriculture transformed to our needs. Those needs, however, are very different.
In the capitalist model of production we need to produce more for less. Any adjustment in the cultivation method is focused on cutting costs and increasing profits. Many of the ancient grains had to be commercialized. Breeding them to have a longer shelf-life and endure long-distance transportation.
We switched from soft-and-tasty to tough-and-bland.
Agricultural business (a term coined as Agribusiness) kills the biodiversity by replacing it with monoculture and hybrid seeds. The extensive use of herbicides and pesticides, along with controlled conditions in greenhouses, no longer requires many of the specific traits of ancient grains. Three quarters of our edible species have disappeared in the last century alone. Today, 8 Multinational giants control 75% of all seeds and grains worldwide, including organic seeds.
This control is done through ‘patenting’ a seed/grain variety. The same way a company obtains the copyrights to a song or a movie. The multinationals get billions of dollars from patenting their ‘creation’. A creation that resulted from the breeding of natural seeds – which they got for free from seed banks and universities. They claim to be the creator of a specific brand. When, all they do, is a sloppy version of the work of nature. And, in the case of Genetically Modified Organisms, they introduce toxic genes into the plants.
Today, even in Europe, self replicating seeds from commercial varieties are illegitimate. Farmers are encouraged to buy modern hybrid varieties that produce crops conforming to the supermarket standards of appearance. They have to buy the seeds or, if they keep them for future cultivation, a tax must be paid to the company who has the rights to that seed. If a farmer decides to keep seeds and plant them. He is breaking the law. If a farmer plants ancient, non-cataloged varieties for a commercial purpose. He is breaking law.
So it’s a capitalist world. So what?
Diversification, as noted earlier, is vital for a healthy balance. When the plants are regenerative and diverse, they feed the insects, the soil, the animals and of course, us. The extinction of seeds takes with them the genetic information that took thousands of years to develop. With climate change affecting our environment, we need that information more than ever.
“The issue is too important not to be taken up by every citizen in their daily lives. It is too important not to be taken up by spiritual movements. Food begins as seed. The seed is sacred. Food is sacred”
Dr Vandana Shiva
The companies involved in agricultural production are closely linked with the big pharma industry. Together they have taken over the agricultural world and are constantly spreading their tentacles in every segment of the food chain.
There are many organizations that are involved in the war against the multinational giants. It’s an adamant struggle as the pressure from the multinationals is relentless. It is no surprise that the main media coverage on this topic is practically non-existent. By discreetly spreading their seeds, they know that if they control the food, they can control the world.
Seed organizations are on constant legal battles against the multinationals. In September 2014, Kokopelli (a French based non-profit seed bank) won a 10 year old court case against Baumax – a French seed company – that sued them for ‘unfair practice’ of their use of the seeds. Baumaux claimed that Kokopelli had an unfair advantage by not registering all their seeds. It costs EUR 150 to register one variety and a seed organization will have thousands of different seeds – making total registration impossible.
As individuals, there are many ways to support the movement. We already see a focus towards old diets. Scientific studies constantly remind us how the foods from our ancestors are way more valuable than the westernized versions of them. The trend towards the so-called ‘superfoods’ is nothing more than a re-appreciation of the old varieties. Quinoa seeds, chia, goji berries, and so on are products that could have disappeared. Yet, the demand for high quality products has been on the increase. That alone is a great indication that things are changing.
We can choose our vegetables and fruits from local suppliers and distributors. Diversity goes hand-in-hand with local, decentralized food systems. For example, many cooperatives are not registered as commercial farmers and are therefore not binded by any seed regulations. Meaning they can plant whichever variety they please.
At our local market, apart from the usual ‘is it bio?’ we can now ask ‘which variety is this?’. Chances are they wouldn’t know. But it won’t be long before they inform themselves. You can then make an informed choice on which vegetable you prefer. Our pallets are great indicators of high-quality varieties.
As gardeners, we choose our seeds wisely. We don’t seed commercial F1 hybrids from gardening shops, but from organizations that are devoted in protecting the biodiversity. We can learn how to save, evaluate, spread and adapt our seeds to our fields and gardens so they can adapt to the new climates (it is not as difficult as one may think).
Gardening and farming can be much more than a hobby. But a political action towards food sovereignty.
The freedom of seeds lies at the core of the problems we face today. It is a key factor in dealing with world hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation. The seeds are the fuel that keeps the forces of creation to be in motion and constantly change. Let’s not lose them.
Love and Light
More information available below.
Navdanya , India
Probably the biggest organization dealing with this issue. Founded by the charismatic Dr. Vandana Shiva. Volunteer programs are also available
Articles and such
Bit closer to home
kokopelli-semences.fr/ – you can buy great seeds here
A movie is under production and could greatly benefit with your help. Feel free to donate.
Credits: Illustrations by Linda Dieschbourg