A friend passed along a must-read article from the National Geographic about the importance and the implications of protecting different varieties of seed. It’s troubling – to say the least – to think that varieties of heirloom vegetables and grain are heading for extinction. This is one of the outcomes of modern commercial farming. Agribusiness relies heavily on growing crops that can withstand just about anything, and that will yield the most output. It’s business, right?
They consistently have to bring bushels and bushels of crop to market, and so they are using the best of science and technology to take some of the risks out of farming. This means genetically altering seed to make them resistant to drought, insects, and other environmental hazards. It means genetically splicing the most robust, highest producing seeds until we are left with the superman of all seeds. What’s wrong with efficiency and effectiveness in the name of growing business?
Well, it’s like putting all of your eggs in one basket (yes, another farm analogy!). What if something comes along, like a seed disease, and wipes out our entire crop supply because we have been relying on only one variety? That’s the crux of the National Geographic article as it thoughtfully describes several “food arks” and food banks. Smart, forward-thinking people have recognized this potentially huge problem, and have started saving and storing all types of heirloom varieties of seed. Can you imagine certain types of tomatoes, or potatoes, or corn going extinct. That’s the direction we are heading – toward one “kind” of everything under the sun, which, as someone who loves food, is very scary to me. Food will become more and more homogenized and bland. It’s something right out of the The Matrix or The Twilight Zone – everyone eating the same cereal or peas or whatever! What can you do? Support food and seed banks, and choose local and organic farm products whenever and wherever you can. Spend your dollars with smaller growers to send a message to agribusinesses to change their ways.