First signs of spring and preparing to celebrate Imbolc

This will be my first conscious celebration of Imbolc.   As humans we intuitively follow the cycle of nature, along with our calendars. It is good to take the time to purposefully observe the changes. Im very glad to be … Continue reading

Types of seeds to choose

I wanted to help make you aware that not all seed is the same and why it is important to know about what seed you buy. It still shocks me and I am surprised that I only recently became aware of it. (I was confused by F1 on so many packets in garden centres.)

You may or may not be aware of something called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and it’s relevance to seed production. Under this partnership is the proposed seed regulation ‘EU Plant Reproductive Material Law’. This legislation would have a hugely negative effect on the rights of farmers and other growers (in its first drafting even gardeners!) to use, save and exchange their seeds. It will also allow full and unfettered access to our food production, from multi-national corporations, such as Monsanto with their GMOs

Some of the open pollinated seeds growing in my unheated conservatory

The longterm effects of GMOs are unknown, we do know however that the greater the genetic diversity in nature, the better natural things do. GMOs fly in the face of that knowledge and reason. What happens if we ‘put all our seeds in one high yelding basket’ and at somepoint it falls foul to any number of future unforseen diseases or possibilites? or we do as a result of what we eat? Different technologies are being used to create “hidden” GM crops, which are being rushed onto the market by seed corporations before the Commission decides whether or not they should be classified as GM. Our choice as consumers is again being limited. We simply do not know what we are eating

red crab apples for jelly

Chestnuts for preserve and pies

Edible field blewits

Edible field blewits

Foraged foods.

It is argued that large agra-business likes these seeds, they will pay slightly higher prices for the seeds to get a better yield BUT once their land is infected with this seed they can no longer grow the alternative true seed; it will cross pollinate with the GMOs and so future seeds become useless. Monsanto sues farmers who have had their land unknowingly infected through cross pollination from other farms because they have patented that genetic material -material from seeds bread through biodiversity and by selection over decades, even centuries, by local traditional farmers who know what grows well. It is deeply troubling to say the least. We also know that the price of seed once farmers have used it begins to rise. Everything which is a product of that food chain is then subject to these companies and their prices.

Homemade rosepetal and homemade lavender lemonade from the garden.

The only people who had any input into drafting this law were large multi-national businesses who supplied ‘technical experts’ to ‘help’ them write the law, this is why it completely ignored the needs of small farmers and home growers. Due to large amounts of public objection the MEPs realised that something was wrong and it was sent back to be re-written. The already existing seed laws are not without problems and may still allow for the worst if something isnt changed so it is hoped the law will be renegotiated, to account for the needs of all rather than abandoned altogether.

It gives us a chance to stop the worst case scnario. We need to keep up the pressure and remind the EU that not all growers are the same or have the same wants and needs. We must push for exemptions for home gardeners if these laws are to be passed. If we dont do this and the UK is forced to ensure all plant matter is regulated strictly because of the TTIP we will loose our choice. Even the large scale producers of seed can not afford to register their more unusual varieties so we currently do not enforce the stricter EU laws here in the UK. This will change if this legislation passes. A wide choice of different types and varieties of grown produce (fruit flowers vegetables and grains) will disappear.

The small holdings homesteaders and other small businesses from who we buy open pollinated, traditional, or ‘heirloom’ true seeds will not be able to afford the cost of registering their seed varieties (nor anual fees of keeping them registered)  the result is that all of these local, traditional, natural seeds could be lost forever. In the first draft it is illegal to trade and even swap seeds from your own garden! If the ideology of these corporations is succesful, you will only be able to buy the same seeds as the largescale farmer, high yeilding sterile seeds.

Cornflower and sunflower seedlings

Many farmers no longer keep their own seeds as it needs to be checked for patented genetic material (remember Monsanto will sue them) This becomes an issue when governments allow secret trials like those in Spain where organic farmers have had to abandon growing maize for fear of cross-pollination and being sued. Checking seeds needs expensive technology which is inaccessable to most farmers so they have to buy seed from producers who can afford to, and have already, checked it. Again limiting choice for the consumer, and limiting genetic diversity, compared to when farmers can keep and use their own seeds.

In nature we know that everything does better the greater its genetic diversity. We know that restristing genetic diversity i.e the inbreeding of honeybees can be diasterous. For them and for us. We need to care for our pollinators and we need to ensure that they have something to pollinate! Seeds are literally the buidling blocks of life. It is unjust and insidious to patent or own mother nature.

Ladybird in the garden they keep aphids down

Peacock butterflies in the garden some overwinter in my little summerhouse/potting shed.

Sparrowhawk in the garden. These were in dangerous decline due to garden pesticides but numbers are recovering well now due to successful breeding programmed. This one caught one of our collared doves.

Robin eggs in the hedge. They lost two clutches last year hopefully they do better this spring.

Our choices, our lifestyles, our traditions, our culture, our freedom to live naturally and how we wish are at risk if we do not keep our eye on proposed regulation and legislation. Or on who drives those proposals. Knowledge is power. If you know what is happening you can make informed choices and take action.

If you want to get growing, real, safe and healthy food for your family there is no better time to start than now.

Wild buttercups

Cowslips that grow in the lawn/everywhere 🙂

1. Open pollinated seeds.

These are the most natural seeds pollinated by nature, bees, insects and the wind. Occasionally by us too as we brush up against flowers and accidentally get pollen on our clothes, carrying it to another flower and so on. Sometimes we can help Mother Nature a little by gently brushing the pollen from one flower to another. This is commonplace in organic seeds and perhaps has become necessary to ensure authenticity. Organic seeds are becoming harder and harder to come by because the big seed companies are busy buying up the small seed companies, again, restricting choice.

2. High yeilding. Hybrid seeds.

These include the F1 varieties. They sound quite convincing on the packet with quite a lot of reasurring information. You cannot save seeds from these varieties they will be sterile or will not grow ‘true’ they will cross contaminate with true seed if you grow both. In my opinion they are a bit of a con for the home gardener and not as good for  the environment as more bio diversity is. Also quite expensive!

3. GE seeds GM and GMO.

These are the baddies of the seed world sterile and patented by biotechnolgy companies such as Monsanto. Under US law you can be sued if your crop is infected by them. The genetic material they cointain was not invented by Monsanto or biotechnology. It was already there through evolution/god and selective breeding by traditional farmers over decades and centuries. These seeds will eventually lack genetic diversity compared with natural and open pollinated seeds. They will become compatitively weaker to future disease and environmental changes.

http://landworkersalliance.org.uk/2014/01/reclaiming-farmers-rights-to-seeds/ INFO ABOUT PROTESTS AND SEED SHARES

http://www.realseeds.co.uk/seedlaw2.html INFO ON THE EU LAW AND MEP ADRESSES TO WRITE TO AND SEED SHARES. YOU CAN BUY OPEN POLLINATED SEEDS HERE AND MANY NEAR EXTINCT TRADITIONAL VARIETIES.

If you do decide to read the proposed regulation and legislation be aware that the first 5 pages which may sound ok are an executive summary. Not the actual proposals which read quite differently.