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How safe are our seeds?

Marilyn Barber is ready to plant. COURTESY PHOTO

Marilyn Barber is ready to plant. COURTESY PHOTO

By Marilyn Barber
Special to the Michigan Citizen

This is the time of year when farmers and gardeners get cabin fever. We have been in the house and not out and about because of the inclement weather. The seed companies are starting to send out their catalogs for us to place our orders. This is a good time for the veteran gardener to reflect on what they grew last season: how was the yield, was it what they expected, and would you grow it again. Or maybe, try something different this year.

Growing up as a child, I remember my mother would always save her seeds for the next year.  The only time she bought seeds was when it was something she had not grown the previous year.  She still continues to save her seeds, and seeds that she purchases are from good seed companies.

Now that you have decided what you are going to grow this season, it’s time to select where you are going to purchase your seeds. Where you get your seeds is very important. Make sure you have good quality seeds from a reliable source. Look for seeds that have not been genetically modified. Most reputable seed companies have signed the Safe Seed Pledge.

What is the Safe Seed Pledge?

The Safe Seed Pledge is a program founded by the Council for Responsible Genetics. The pledge reads as follows: “Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations and for the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative.

We pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants.

The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms, poses great biological risks as well as economic, political, and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities.”What is GMO and why should I avoid it?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are made by forcing genes from one species, such as bacteria, viruses, animals, or humans, into the DNA of a food crop or animal to introduce a new trait.According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, “several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.

Additionally, many varieties of GMO seed are not, upon harvest, able to be replanted. This means you have to buy new seed year after year.

Many foodies are concerned about where their fresh fruits and vegetables come from. They would rather buy organic produce than produce conventionally grown.  They would rather buy seasonal produce that is locally grown versus produce from the other side of the country or maybe the other side of the world.Should we be concerned about the seeds’ origin? Instead of buying locally grown produce that has been genetically modified, would you buy safe seeds and grow your own? Growing your own would be a good thing, but if you can’t, at least asking the farmer if their seeds are safe is a good alternative.

Since you have purchased safe seeds, you can feel good about saving your own seeds from your bountiful crops.

Here are a few of the seed companies that have signed the safe seed pledge:

www.bontanicalinterests.com

www.johnnyseeds.com

www.highmowingseeds.com

www.territorialseedcompany.com

www.seedsofchange.com

www.mountainroseherbs.com.

To see a copy of the Safe Seed Pledge and to learn more about this program, visit: www.councilforresponsiblegentics.org and www.organicsonsumersassociation.com.

To see the entire paper from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, please visit:

www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html.

Marilyn Barber is the Vice-Chair of the DBCFSN.  She is the manager of D-Town Farm.  She initiated several children’s gardens in Detroit including at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Inner City Sub Center and Belle Isle. As a docent at the Belle Isle Belle Conservatory, she planted the first African Garden and conducts cooking demonstrations of her delicious greens for the children who visit the Conservatory. She is a Market Manager and Garden Coordinator for the Marketing Workgroup Committee for the Garden Resource Program and an Americorp volunteer as an Urban Agriculture Intern for the Greening of Detroit.  Barner is a Certified Master Gardener and is currently attending Michigan State University in the Student Organic Farming Program.   

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