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Who Owns the Seeds?

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Whenever a story like the one above hits the news I always hear from fans of my books. They see the parallels of a Bayer-Monsanto merger with the Seed Savers future in which Nipungyo, and ultimately GRIM, take over the food system.

In the NPR story, the Monsanto chair is quoted as saying,”We believe in the substantial benefits an integrated strategy could provide to growers and broader society, and we have long respected Bayer’s business.” A merger of the two giants would create the world’s largest supplier of seeds and agricultural chemicals.

Right now, 75% (source) of the seeds planted are owned by just 10 companies (Monsanto and Bayer among them.) Nearly 50% of those seeds are owned by just three companies. So, yes, pay attention when you hear the stories.

And don’t forget to save your own seeds! You may be glad you did. 🙂

Excerpt from Treasure (Seed Savers, 1) Chapter 10:

It had been years since Ana was cited for home gardening. Thankfully, neither her seeds nor her books had been found, but all the herbs and vegetables were confiscated or ripped from the ground. She had claimed she thought the cilantro, turnips, and chard sprouting throughout her small yard were inedible weeds that had gained a foothold in her landscaping. Indeed, they looked the part.

Up until the raid, Ana had grown illegal plants for years without a problem. Since then, she’d been more careful. She grew most plants indoors now, and sometimes scattered a few seeds in empty lots around town, collecting the seeds later in the season. She wanted to keep as many fresh seeds as possible. It was all part of being a Seed Saver.

And now she was doing the last thing Seed Savers did: teaching someone younger to carry it forward until the dawn of a new day, a day when the old ways of gardening were no longer unlawful. She sighed deeply, thinking of the task in front of her, and of the looming shadow on the land: GRIM.

Although it was GRIM now—an actual arm of the government—it had started earlier with private corporations: BENAR, Nipungyo, Qubceq. Some pointed to the Supreme Court ruling of 1980 okaying the patenting of living organisms as the beginning of the end.
A prediction was made around the turn of the century that if Nipungyo had its way, no farmer in the country, perhaps even the world, would ever own a seed again. It was a prediction that had since gained federal authorization in several nations, and it applied to everyone, not just farmers. All sanctioned seeds in America were genetically enhanced and patented. Owning, purchasing, and planting of all seeds was controlled by the government. The average person knew nothing about growing his or her own food. Ana shook her head. The average person wouldn’t recognize food beyond Vitees, Sweeties, Carbos, Proteins, and Snacks.

She thought back to how it all began. The loss of freedom in gardening and farming was gradual, and started—or so it appeared—innocently enough. Scientists created biotec, or genetically modified seeds, to improve crop production: seeds whose plants were resistant to drought, disease, and insect damage; seeds that produced plants with larger fruit and longer shelf life. Chemical companies created seeds whose plants survived their herbicides, making it easier for farmers to produce a clean and weed-free crop.
The innovations seemed to benefit everybody: the farmer, third world countries, consumers. Like vaccinations or pasteurized milk contributing to the good of humanity, biotec plants were heralded as an improved way of food business. One difference, however, was the ownership rights. A few large corporations, and one in particular—Nipungyo—soon had a corner on the market of genetically modified seeds.

A tear rolled down Ana’s face as she recalled the way it had played out. The first to go were small farmers who didn’t buy into GM seeds; they had no interest in Nipungyo’s herbicides or high-priced seeds. They continued to farm as they always had, by saving seeds from each year’s crop to plant in the coming year. Gradually, however, neighboring farms switched to Nipungyo’s Bull’s Eye resistant seeds and cross-pollination occurred. Nipungyo sent representatives out to gather and test seeds; some called them the “seed police.” Farmers who’d never used the biotec seeds were run out of business because they didn’t have the money to defend themselves.

Consumers also lost. They lost the ability to choose the kind of food they would eat. While some were aware that supermarket food came from genetically modified seeds, most were not. Had they known, they might not have cared, lulled as they were into trusting that somebody else was watching out for them.

People forgot the flavor of food so fresh from the earth you could taste the richness or desperation of the soil in which it was grown. Plants that historically offered untold diversity—such as more than three thousand varieties of potatoes in Peru—were bred down to what the seller deemed best, based on the demand from large chain stores and “fast food” restaurants. The valued traits of the chosen monoculture had to do with size, proliferation, ease of shipping, shelf life, and cost, rather than flavor or nutrition.
Food became a commodity rather than the nourishment of life.

Ana recalled how the efforts of small grassroots groups came too late. By then, corporations had gained a foothold in key government offices. The food poisoning outbreaks of the 2010s and 2020s put fresh market growers out of business and handed all food growing and production over to agribusiness. Though never proven, many suspected the food contamination was intentional so that the government could finally wrest control from the people.

Within ten years, only authorized producers were allowed to grow food. GRIM was formed to enforce and investigate all things related to food production. The revolving door of the past between Nipungyo executives and federal government positions was at last solidified into one single agency.

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

Treasure 2015 revert front only

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2 comments on “Who Owns the Seeds?

  1. … and as I said on my original review of your brilliant series, the only problem I have with it is it’s set too far in the future. I hope all your readers joined the campaign for real seeds – join your organic association, join real food collectives, join the transition networks, and use small business like Real Seeds in the UK. Seek them out, and support them!

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