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Letters To The Editor

November 29th, 2010

Dear Editor,

I just read your article, “The Tyranny of S510.” Being the apparently clueless city dweller that I am, there is much in the article that is not clear to me. What is an “heirloom” seed? How is it different from an ordinary seed?

Your article implies that “heirloom” seeds are good, while ordinary seeds are bad. It does not say why. Is an heirloom seed a very old seed handed down from my grandparents, or one purchased in a quaint little antique seed shop? To folks like me, seeds are seeds.

Why does anyone need “seed cleaning equipment” anyway? Don’t people stick seeds into the ground to make them grow? And isn’t the ground made of dirt? So, what’s the point of cleaning a seed before sticking it into dirt?

Apparently your article was intended to be read only by farmers or gardeners who already understand the background of your article, but in today’s world, the number of people who have that kind of knowledge is shrinking fast. Please help us city folk to catch up.

Urban Survivalist

Dear Urban Survivalist,

An heirloom seed is one that has not been hybridized or genetically modified. These are varieties that are the foundation for many of the hybrids today, but they haven’t been manipulated until they either cannot reproduce or their seed cultivation rate is next to nil. What this means for you is that, if you’re growing heirlooms, you can harvest the seed to save for next year. If you’re growing genetically modified crops from the seed of agri-giants, then you can’t.

Seed harvesting and saving is a little more than just picking a vegetable and scooping the seeds out. Some vegetables you allow the seed to dry on the vine, other vegetables you actually allow the protective coating to ferment off the seed (tomatoes being a case in point). There are some folks that have equipment that will clean your seeds for you. Cleaning your seed for optimal storage is important so that mold and rot won’t destroy your seed crop for next year. You can go to the review section on the website and read the review for Seed to Seed. It’s an excellent book for learning how to harvest and save the seed from your garden crop.

The Editor

Dear Editor,

I went to the U.S. government website and downloaded and read the entire text of S. 510: FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Nowhere in the act is there any reference to seed ownership, seed cleaning, seed ownership fines or any of the other inflammatory statements you make about this bill. Please tell me I missed something, because I often double-check your articles and this is the first one that is completely out in left field with the facts.


Dear Annoyed,

I understand your concern. You are right—nowhere in the bill are “seeds”, “seed-sorting equipment,” or “seed-ownership fines” specifically discussed. All these regulations are directed at “food.” However, the first thing you need to understand is that your definition of “food” and the government’s definition of “food” are two totally separate things. When I think of food, I think of the end product, the butchered meat, the vegetables on the shelves, the conditions of growing and harvesting that affect the product we actually consume. I don’t consider seed to be a food.

The United States government through the FDA does, however. And that’s where the sticking point comes in. Also, this bill (like the healthcare bill) is so ambiguous and lacking in detail, and leaves to some amorphous “administrator” to define the terms of what can be controlled by this bill, that we’re in essence giving the federal government (and ONE person) complete discretion to regulate what it wishes with no checks or balances. This bill is one of those pieces of legislative marvels that has to be passed so “we can see what’s in it.”

I personally do not trust the federal government to define the terms of this piece of legislation. It smacks of agri-giant control and manipulation of the seed markets and a complicit government in bed with them. It also cedes to the government more Big Brother control over my life, and quite frankly, I’m sick of their “benevolent” hand groping either my body or my pocketbook.

The Editor

If you would like to contact the editor, please send an email to [email protected].

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