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When I first read about the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI), I didn’t quite understand the point of it, partly because of all the seed saving and exchanging I am involved with.

I started a seed exchange in my community last year, and hundreds of pounds of locally grown, open-pollinated seed were donated to initially fill it up. More local seed was traded for it, and at the end of the season, I had boxes and boxes of locally acclimated, open-pollinated, organic seed to share.

hand and small seed

Growing and saving seed seems natural and necessary to me to keep strains alive, so it was wonderful to see these home gardeners sharing and trading their precious collections. These folks did not care what happened to their seed. They just wanted people to grow it, eat the fruit, and save the seed to share and grow again. We were all free to use the seed as we pleased.

The dark side of GMOs

It’s not news anymore that Monsanto and other giant seed corporations own most of the world’s seed. There are strict rules and heavy fines that come to farmers who choose to use these GMO hybrids. There is even fear around small farmers and home gardeners like me being caught and fined for saving seed. It feels like the dictatorship of the seed world!

Aside from that oppressive aspect, there are negative health effects from the ingestion of GMO foods. Rats, mice, sheep, cows and pigs fed GMO corn and soy developed tumors and strange diseases, and they were rendered sterile. There are no long term studies on humans, but if GMO food is changing the very DNA structure of these animals, it will do the same to us. Monsanto, in its dictatorial way, blocks autopsies on animals and silences scientists who publish test results that are different than their own.

Bans and labeling

Many countries around the world are banning GMO crops and imports, and individual states in the US are pushing for GMO labeling. Why not add GMO ingredients on a label right next to the nutritional analysis, and let consumers decide what they want to eat? The federal US government, though, is dragging its feet on doing anything to keep GMOs out of the food supply. The political reasons for this are many, but that’s not what I’m here to say.

We each need to take the situation into our own hands to preserve the diversity of crops and seed genetics. We need to eat organic food to increase demand for its production. Certified organic means no GMOs. It’s the safest route you can go except to grow your own. If you do, use open-pollinated and heirloom seed, save some seed in the fall, then share it with friends and family. That’s what we can do on a small scale, and it does make a difference!

Free the Seed!

The OSSI, a group of seed, gardening and food enthusiasts and professionals, is doing the same thing on a larger scale. They have flipped the idea of total control of the world’s seed to total freedom for seed! As Monsanto wants to control the seed world, OSSI wants to set it free!

Seed growers take a pledge that graces their seed packets. It reads:

This Open Source Seed pledge is intended to ensure your freedom to use the seed contained herein in any way you choose, and to make sure those freedoms are enjoyed by all subsequent users. By opening this packet, you pledge that you will not restrict others’ use of these seeds and their derivatives by patents, licenses, or any other means. You pledge that if you transfer these seeds or their derivatives they will also be accompanied by this pledge.

If Monsanto can be so tight with seed, why can’t we be equally as loose? OSSI is the complete opposite of what Monsanto represents. For the health of the earth and its inhabitants, it’s important to preserve the genetic diversity of our crops.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see that kind of pledge on every seed packet in the world? I think it would.

Your thoughts on seed access and growing your own food

Where do you stand on having access to seeds?

Do you worry about GMOs?

What steps have you taken when it comes to growing your own food and connecting to your community?

Tell us about it in the comments section.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.