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Old 12-13-2016, 10:47 PM   #1
Catbird
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Default Check your state: Is seed trading legal?

I'm putting this here so all our gardeners will hopefully see it. But it could just as easily go in Politics or News or Economy because it involves all of those and more.

Sometimes, when I read about things like this, it makes me feel like I'm living in some dystopian novel. I picture drones lining up to receive their precious ration of allowed seeds doled out, to those considered worthy enough to pay the appropriate fee, by the MegaCorpWhichOwnsAllSeeds. Twenty five years ago, who would have thought that it would require a law for us to exercise such a simple right as saving and trading seeds?


It’s Now Legal to Share Seeds in California

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The state just became the fourth to pass a law making it legal to swap seeds and collect them in non-commercial libraries.

Free seed libraries, swaps, and exchanges increase access to local food and can play a large role in both expanding and preserving biodiversity. Yet for almost 80 years, these non-commercial operations have been running afoul of the law.

That’s because the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Federal Seed Act mandates that any activity involving non-commercial distribution of seed be labeled, permitted, and tested according to industrial regulations that would be both costly and burdensome to the over 460 estimated seed libraries operating in 46 states.

Now the tide may be starting to turn.

California—home to over 60 seed libraries and hundreds of swaps, according to Rebecca Newburn, co-founder and coordinator of the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library—recently became the fourth state in two years to pass a law that exempts non-commercial seed activities from regulatory requirements.

“We wanted to create the legal framework for an alternative system that is not reliant on large companies to provide open-pollinated seed varieties,” said Neil Thapar, the food and farm attorney at the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC). “Seed sharing has a direct connection to building local economic resilience.”

...While none of the seed libraries and seed exchanges in California had reported being targeted by the government, Thapar said, advocates nationwide became concerned when state officials shut down a Pennsylvania seed sharing library in 2014, citing the violation of a law mirroring the Federal Seed Act. The next year, Nebraska and Minnesota libraries faced similar crackdowns (seed control law is mostly uniform across all 50 states).

But in the last two years, Nebraska, Illinois, and Minnesota have all passed laws protecting non-commercial seed activity from regulatory requirements. And the effort appears to be spreading. Thapar says he has been contacted by residents in Florida, Ohio, and New York.

SELC is taking action to get laws changed in all 50 states. Almost all state seed control officials use “model legislation” (officially dubbed the Recommended Uniform State Seed Law or RUSSL) developed by the Association of American Seed Control Officials as the template for their own laws. SELC has been working with the Association to add a section to RUSSL specifying that noncommercial seed sharing activities be exempt from industrial labeling, permitting, and testing requirements.

...But the most important impact of these programs, McCamant says, is that they build resilience in the local food system by taking power away from the handful of corporations that control the majority of the global seed industry.

“If we don’t have access to the first link of a food chain, we have no control over what to grow and what food is available to us,” she said. “The scale can be small, but the impacts can be so large.”
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Old 12-14-2016, 02:52 PM   #2
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I am all for sharing open pollinator seed and the US Government MAY have been too intrusive (along with the states) but let's not throw out the baby with the bath water.

There is a reason (and no it isn't for the big hybrid seed company's profits) for some controls.

A lot of blights, rusts, rots, wilts, etc. can be transmitted by contaminated seeds.

Planted in close proximity to commercial crops we could have a problem.

In the old days this risk was minimal because they were mostly passed hand to hand locally. If one got it and it spread it usually died out although that area may not have a grain or veg that season.

Don't get me started on invasive plants spread by seed. Remember all of those Chinaberry Trees (Melia azedarach) planted because people wanted fast growers?

Now with mail and FedEx we could have a larger problem.

Before you post that scorcher reply, remember I didn't say the previous laws weren't intrusive, I just saw there should be some controls, or common sense.
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Old 12-14-2016, 04:41 PM   #3
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I agree that common sense needs to be applied. Unfortunately, that seems to be in short supply across many facets of our society, especially when the .gov is involved.

It's true that there are potential risks involved in seed sharing. But that's the case with any process involving nature. For example, as beekeepers, we have to constantly monitor the bees for signs of infestation or disease which they may have picked up while out gathering nectar. In TN, we're required to register our colonies with the State so that they can be inspected and even destroyed if necessary to prevent the spread of a harmful agent. While we don't like being required to register with a gov't agency just to have bees, we recognize that we have a responsibility to ensure that our bees don't harm other colonies. That's simple common sense, courtesy and good husbandry. So we follow the requirements of the regulations.

But, unlike the USDA rules concerning sharing open source seeds, the State's bee regulations don't negate our natural right to own bees, or to trade hives with another beekeeper, or to capture and tame a wild swarm. That's the fundamental issue at stake here - that the gov't has taken away our natural, inherent right to do something as simple as choosing which foods we wish to grow.

It's yet another example of how our natural, inalienable rights now have to be codified as laws and be specifically granted to us by the gov't. Note that I said "the gov't" and not "our gov't " because I don't think it is ours anymore.

Given the fact that he was a life-long gardener and passionately interested in seed sharing, I have a feeling that Jefferson must be rolling in his grave.
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