Seed Keeping and Seed Privatization

The practice of seed keeping is a quiet act of resistance; it is a step towards food sovereignty and a way to protect our cultures. In the face of seed privatization and monopolization, to keep seed is an act of care for descendants and future generations.

Three companies make up the seed monopoly: Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta. This trifecta makes up more than half of the market, though this percent varies quite a lot by region. These corporations’ seeds are patented, meaning that farmers have to ‘rent’ them rather than buy them and must buy new seeds every season rather than saving seeds to replant.

The transition towards farmers buying seeds rather than saving their own is an outcome of industrialization and capitalism; farms can work more quickly and on a larger scale if they function as just one part of a production chain rather than as individual, holistic systems. This transition was well underway before any of the aforementioned monopolies came into existence.

Along with this transition came to invent and proliferation of modern GMO technology in which seeds are genetically modified to be more nutritionally valuable, increase crop yields, look prettier or be more resistant to pests, diseases, weather, etc.

Although I think that any monopoly or mega corporation is inherently bad, the reasons that farmers buy these seeds are not, nor are the reasons for the spread of GMO’s. We should be able to feed everyone in the world nutritious, affordable food and farmers should be able to earn a good living.

Unfortunately, much of the world is still living in a state of food apartheid. One of the most insidious parts of this story is the way in which these companies enact neoliberal initiatives in countries outside of the U.S, weakening local food economics. An example being Monsanto’s large ‘donation’ of GMO seeds to Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, which Haitian farmers mobilized to burn rather than use, in order to avoid ruining local economies and biodiversity.

Learning how to keep our own seeds is empowering, as it guarantees the ability to keep growing food, independent of any corporations, every year and allows us to maintain a larger diversity of heirloom foods.