Got Seeds to Share? Here's Your Network

Good Mother Stallard beans are named for Carrie Belle Stallard of Wise County, Virginia. This variety dates to at least the 1930s. . (Photo: Marisa Estivill/Shutterstock)

Someone in Jamestown, New York, has 25 Cattaraugus cranberry bean seeds to share to share with you. They can be yours if you join the new seed-sharing website, Global Seed Network from the Center for Food Safety.

Launched on International Seeds Day (April 26), the network's purpose is to "empower farmers and home gardeners alike to sustain diverse seed and plant varieties in the face of corporate control of the food supply and a changing climate."

Over time, the seeds from many varieties of fruits and vegetables have become scarce and some are believed to be extinct. According to National Geographic, a survey of the U.S. National Seed Storage Library from 1903 to 1983 found that 93 percent of the seeds had gone extinct during that time. Thousands of heirloom varieties stopped being planted as people increasingly relied on grocery stores to get their produce. Because some varieties are more hearty than others, those varieties became the ones that farmers planted to sell to stores, simply because they transported well. The varieties that couldn't handle a long haul — even if they were better tasting — became faint memories.

Chipping away at a bigger problem

glass gem corn
(Photo: gnotalex/flickr)

Over the past few decades, there's been a concerted effort by organizations and home gardeners to bring back as many varieties as possible. Varieties that were forgotten by all but a handful of people, like the Glass Gem corn with its stunningly colorful kernels, are being cultivated and brought back. But, even as these varieties are being rediscovered, another problem is threatening our seeds: corporate control.

"Seed diversity is indispensable to food security, food sovereignty, adapting to a changing climate, and preserving cultural and ancestral knowledge," says the Center for Food Safety. However, more than 60 percent of the world's seed supply is know owned by chemical corporations including Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, DuPont and Syngenta. As these companies merge, an even stronger monopoly on seeds is a possibility.

When farmers and home gardeners save, grow and share seeds, they can ensure food security for future generations. The Global Seed Network is a way to connect those who have the seeds with those who want them.

How the seed network works

On the network's website, users can create a profile and search for seeds based on region, plant variety, location, or specific crop traits. The site is also a resource for advice on how to collect, save and store seeds as well as how to best grow fruits and vegetables from the saved seeds.

Farmers can use the network for peer-to-peer bulk seed trades with local farmers or farmers in regions with similar growing conditions. Gardeners can use the network to find seeds that will thrive in their garden's soil and climate. There's also a forum for gardeners to exchange information.

Since this is a global network, seeds from all over the world can be shared, and the Global Seed Network has tips on how to ensure buyers are following all applicable laws regarding seed importation.

"The time is now to reclaim our seed and create a people's seed movement," says the Center for Food Safety. With the Global Seed Network, the ability to do that just got easier.