Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sixth Organic Seed Growers Conference Invitation for Input and Proposals

 January 19 – 21, 2012
Port Townsend, Washington

Organic Seed Alliance invites you to help shape the Sixth Organic Seed Growers Conference by providing suggestions for content and speakers and submitting proposals for presentations, posters, panels and roundtable discussions. This is your opportunity to share important research and ask timely questions of your organic seed community members. The conference is the only event that brings together diverse members of the organic community – farmers, seed companies, pathologists, plant breeders, food companies, policy experts, and seed advocates – in two days of presentations and networking events focused solely on moving organic seed systems forward.

Past conference topics have included seed pathology, seed biology, breeding for nutrition, breeding for ecological complexity, seed economics and marketing, and presentations from experienced organic seed producers. Conference attendees receive practical information, cutting edge research, updates on policy and seed advocacy efforts, a published proceedings, and inspiring stories from the field.

In preparation for the 2012 conference, we are seeking input from diverse stakeholders in the organic seed community. Suggestions for content and proposals for presentations, posters, panels and roundtable discussions must be submitted by July 1, 2011. Applicants will be notified by August 1, 2011.

Proposals (presentations and posters):
To submit a proposal, please contact Cathleen McCluskey at cathleen@seedalliance.org with the following information: contact information; name and title of speaker or author; title of presentation, poster, panel, or roundtable topic; target audience; and a brief description (300 words or less). We welcome not only academic sessions, but also encourage advocates, government staff, and others with practical knowledge of organic seed systems to participate. Please submit content in MSWord format or in the body of an email. Each presenter will be required to submit a paper for the conference proceedings. Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like assistance with the proposal process. We regret that we are unable to provide travel support for meeting participation.

Suggestions for content:
We also welcome suggestions for speakers and topics. What issue would you like to learn more about? What questions do you want to see addressed through a panel discussion or presentation? Who would you like to hear speak at the conference? Please email your ideas and questions to Cathleen McCluskey at cathleen@seedalliance.org. If possible, please include: name and contact information (for follow-up questions), suggested topics, suggested speakers, and any additional input regarding conference format and agenda (note: the date and location are already set).

Selection process:

Proposals are evaluated and chosen by a review committee with diverse representation from the organic seed community as well as input received through past conference evaluations.

Conference location, facilities, and special features:
Fort Worden State Park and Conference Center is a wonderful gathering place and offers historic buildings on the water with stunning views. This facility offers reasonable rates for participant lodging and delicious organic food featuring the Northwest’s best. There will also be live music, farm tours, and more! Registration opens September 1, 2011.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Forsaken Garden: The Food Humanity Forgot, Part 3

The diversity of the first generation of Two Mary Corn.

Years ago, when I first started teaching plant propagation for UCLA Extension, I bought a book called, Breed Your Own Vegetables by Carol Deppe. It proved a bit daunting and I put it down. I didn't care for the lessons in Mendelian genetics. I had taught Mendelian genetics before in a general botany class and, though I understood it, it wasn't my cup of tea and so I put Deppe's book down and it collected dust on my shelf.

Last year, with the seed library idea singing it's siren song in my ear, I pulled the book off the shelf again because of it's full title, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's & Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding & Seed Saving (this is probably about the tenth time I've written about this book in one of my blogs, you get the idea that my copy is well worn!) I pulled the book off the shelf and was immediately impressed with Deppe's writing, filled with warm and engaging descriptions of the seeds and stories she told that illustrated her points. After getting through the seed saving half of the book, I began to stick a toe filled with trepidation in the breeding half.

As I studied seed saving, it was obvious to me that a seed saver is already a defacto plant breeder: It may not be an overtly dedicated breeding program, but simply by saving the seed from plant A (it was taller and had more fruit) instead of plant B one has bred in favor of the genetic make up of plant A vs. plant B. So all seed savers are plant breeders, even if only 'passive' plant breeders.

After my week long immersion in seed school, I am convinced more than ever that breeding plants for organic food production has got to be the next frontier for me and I hope I can convince a lot more folks to join me. I mean the active kind of plant breeding – the kind that starts at the beginning of the growing season with intention to create a new variety and goes through season after season to achieve the goal of a new variety.

Two Mary Corn
A couple of years ago, we had two Mary's volunteering at The Learning Garden. They met there and became roommates for a time – both were good solid gardeners. One year, they started seeds of corn and after the corn had germinated, found they needed to move and had no place to plant it. They gave about forty growing corn plants to me. I grew them out and the diversity was astounding (first picture, above). I saved that seed, but I was intimidated about breeding corn and never took it forward. Now, I know what to do and I am eager to pull that seed out again and begin to breed it out to be true. That is project number one. It is only to breed out some of the more beautiful corn seeds for a gorgeous corn. The picture of one of the ears can be seen as a heading (L A Garden Blog) or back drop (this blog, Record of The Seed Library of Los Angeles) on a couple of my blogs. The working name for this corn is Two Mary Corn. Still looking for a good name, but that'll do for my notes.

Purple Maize, for the time being!
The one that has totally captured my imagination has a working name of Purple Maize. Sorry, I can't help it. It will not be released as 'Purple Maize.' I'll find another name for it before then. This is a corn from the collection of Native Seed/SEARCH, unfortunately an unmarked ear, that is a purple colored dent corn. Dent corn is a combination between a flour corn and a flint corn. I just learned the difference this last week at Seed School. Flour corns are softer and are preferred as the source for flour. Flint corns are harder and can be used like flour corns but they are harder to grind and are therefore not the first choice. However, that hardness insures that they will keep better so most folks dealing with subsistence agriculture were inclined to grow both.

The two come together in a 'dent' corn. A dent corn has the interior of a flour corn with the exterior of a flint. The two dry differently with the flour giving up more moisture than the flint causing the kernel to have a 'dent,' a rather pr0nounced dimple, at the top of the kernel. They have a reputation for being highly productive corns – in fact, from the 1890's to the 1920's, THE corn American farmers grew was Reid's Dent, a charming story I'll write down one day soon. Reid's Dent was superseded by the beginning of the hybrid era which continues through today. This corn, collected from the Native American gardens of America's south west is most assuredly a drought tolerant corn and only a chance cross between a flour and flint corn, in other words, not a stable cross and the resulting seeds are as likely to be a flour or flint as well as a dent.

There is no listing for a purple dent corn in the Native Seed/SEARCH database, but here was this one ear. Purple can be equated with higher levels of anthocyanins. If one could breed a corn that was high in anthocyanins, stored well and produced abundantly, one might have a hit on his hands. Or, in the words of the Tucson gardening community, spoken with a tongue firmly in cheek, “Rich, Rich, Rich! It's going to make us Rich, Rich, Rich!” Of course, nothing in plant breeding does these days and I would be happy enough to breed a useful plant that helps us actually assuage hunger rather than sell more herbicides.

Corn breeding is harder than tomato or pepper breeding, because corn cannot be inbred too much before one gets a very negative feedback from the corn in weak and unproductive plants. I am starting with only a few seeds, so the first year is to grow out enough seeds to begin to experiment – of course, I will only select to plant corn seed that continues to exhibit the purple dent characteristics. It is important to note that I will need 200 or more plants in the second year in order to not experience the negative effects of inbreeding. The good news is that the plants can be located in different gardens. So, I'll be looking around for places I can plant something like forty plants in to achieve my 200 plant minimum.

But we need more plants being bred – we need plants that can survive drought, hotter temperatures (many pollens die at higher temperatures, we need to find look for pollen with more tolerance to heat), plants that remain upright despite harsher storms. All these are likely scenarios in the coming decades because of global climate change. These are plants that will produce the food the world will need in the coming years.

This is the work that will prevent hunger and starvation – not the work of Big Ag and their dependence on oil and patents. If I get a new variety of corn, yes, I WILL patent it. But I'll patent it so it cannot be patented by someone else. I'll give the patent to the Seed Library of Los Angeles or some other philanthropic conscious group.

What would you breed if you had the chance? You probably can do it! And remember, if you fall short, you can still eat the results! I hope you are excited too!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Forsaken Garden: The Food Humanity Forgot, Part 2

Corn is one of the most hybridized plants in our world today, but most of the hybrids developed in the past 50 years have nothing I want in my garden.  This ancient race of corn, at present not precisely identified, from the Native Seed/SEARCH collection does have traits I want: It is a dent corn, meaning it has the keeping qualities of a flint combined with the finer grain of a flour corn.  The blue tint holds higher nutrition. One of my projects now is to develop a blue (higher nutrition), dent corn (longer shelf life and finer grain - dents also tend to be among the more productive corn races). I have two corn breeding projects on the books right now.

Even by the time the professionals were breeding plants – before the genetic modification started – the intent was no longer to breed plants for any kind of long term strategy. Just like modern Wall Street, the idea became to get in, make a buck and not be around when the thing imploded. Home gardeners and food consumers became the victims of this make-a-buck strategy. Mind you, the mantra of the promoters of this type of agricultural advancement was: Cheap food – at any price. And no other country bought it up the same way Americans did. And still do. What's the best food store has almost always been the cheapest – a mold that is being broken by Whole Foods Market and that's about the only bone I'll throw them.

It's an odd thing that among 1st World Countries, Americans are the most likely to think food has to be cheap. And, in that guise, we went along for it. Cheap and easy was our national anthem from way before the American Revolution. But the trade offs were huge! Nutrition and taste were not important and were not considered as a 'desirable' outcome of the research.

During this time, the old kind of plant breeding comprised an ever shrinking portion of the plant breeding. And while modern science was breeding in disease resistance to tomatoes and other vegetables, the open pollinated plants were left alone. “Breeding resistance” into plants is another way to describe “breeding more virulent diseases” because, as the plants become resistant, diseases co-evolve to take on the new, improved plants. The net effect of this is that our cherished heirlooms have been compromised by a lack of disease resistance to diseases that weren't around when our treasured plants were being bred.

Now is the time to move beyond 'saving heirlooms.' That is old hat. We have saved a lot of them. Now, we must begin to move beyond just 'saving' them. We must begin to adapt them to our world. We need to confer disease resistance on these tasty and rich jewels of cuisine if we are going to be able to keep them and if they will be the basis of an agriculture that keeps us from starving when the chemicated, profit driven agriculture turns on us by failing to deliver – which it will do sooner or later.

So the challenge before us is to do the work of breeding disease resistance from the hybrids (not the GMOs – which is a different critter altogether and among the people I run with is considered a 'contamination'). There are many hybrids out there from which we can cull disease resistance or other qualities we find desirable in our food. In other words, the word 'hybrid' cannot be a bad or nasty word – we have come to a place where the word 'hybrid' has been too demonized. It is true that the recent history of hybrids is tied in with the mad rush for profit, but the word itself simply means the 'product of a cross.' Hence most of our rich diverse, collection of open-pollinated plants are all hybrids; the difference that needs to be noted is that the open-pollinated plants are stable crosses – whereas the hybrids of the dollar are unstable crosses – in other words, they have not been grown out for successive generations to insure the good qualities are there to stay.

This work has begun already.  Organic Seed Alliance in Oregon and Practical Farmers of Iowa both have breeding programs, although both are focused on farming crops. In fact, if farmers are to 'organic' they need to have access to organic seed and organic seed is non-GMO and no organic farmer who truly wishes to farm organically is willing to buy hybrids from the M itself (Monsanto owns the patent on Big Boy, Big Girl, Better Boy, Early Girl and a host of other hybrids - they aren't GMO, but using them 'feeds the beast.')

Many organizations have been saving all this marvelous germplasm of the open pollinated heritage that is the basis for this work.  We need to get busy - not only in continuing to save the germplasm, but also to breed resistance to the delicious tasting food our ancestors left for us. We need to be true to this treasure and the way best to do that is to not only save it as it is, but to breed it to compete in this modern world and produce fruit reliably and honestly for our children and their children.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Forsaken Garden: The Food Humanity Forgot, Part 1

For all of the history of agricultural civilization, the farmers and gardeners saved their seeds to have something to plant next year.  As soon as humankind began to depend on crops grown in tended fields, saving seeds was as much a part of the process as was planting seeds the following growing season. 

This is the way it was, each generation of humans selecting the seeds that would be the food of the following year.  In this manner, humans were 'breeding' their crops for characteristics they found desirable.  Larger grains, resistance to falling apart in the field before they could be harvested and so on.  It was not called 'breeding' but it was breeding.  Every choice to save one seed over the others in the basket or on the plant was a decision that carried some genetic information forward and left others to be eaten. 

We know this is true because ethnobotanists can look into the detritus of past civilizations and tell within a few years of when a crop becomes domesticated.  The change from a wild seed crop to a domesticated seed crop is dramatic and fairly rapid.  Seed heads become more uniform, the seeds are larger, they don't fall apart easily in the field and other characteristics clearly delineate the departure from 'natural selection' to human selection.

It continues this way over all history.  Up until about the 1950's.  In the late 1800's seed companies sprang up to help people experience other seeds, lending a diversification that gardens hadn't been able to have unless the owner traveled a bit or had connections in other parts of the land.  The average gardener didn't have access to anything that wasn't local.  But seed companies made a lot of seed available to these gardeners and expanded the ability of regions to grow seed adapted to their areas from other similar climates that may not be nearby.  

Still, barring a disaster, once a gardener purchased the seed, the gardener would save seeds for future plantings until some other seed tantalizingly calls to be planted (we all know what that feels like). Seed companies also tried to breed new plants to be able to offer something new each year.  This was the heyday of many great American seed companies that became institutions, like Burpee, introductions we are all familiar with were bred at Burpee's Fordhook Farm - including Fordhook Swiss Chard.  Other plants were bred by a horde amateur seed breeders - including the mechanic 'Radiator Charlie' who paid off his house with sales of seeds of his  "Mortgage Lifter" tomato.

I remember many winters as a child in Kansas, sitting in front of Grandpa's woodstove with snow all over the garden.  I went through the Burpee catalog, Park Seeds and many other seed proprietor catalogs underlining dozens of plants I wanted Grandpa to order for the coming year - I read each catalog hundreds of times, memorizing the descriptions and the names and adoring every single variety - the Burpee catalog in those days was many, many more pages long than it is today.  Grandpa never did, by the way.  He saved his own seeds for the most part and, if he needed more seed, he bought locally.  I didn't understand this until I was an adult growing my own seeds and feeling a little sheepish at how demanding I was about ordering seeds that Grandpa didn't want or need.

Up until the 1950's, one thing that was true of ALL plant breeding: It was done by amateur plant breeders. Sometime around the 1950's breeding began to fall into the hands of college educated plant breeders - people well versed with genetic backgrounds - and the beginning of commercial funding of science research.  The focus shifted from regional seed production to national and international seed sales and companies more interested in profit than in 'traditional values' of the older seed breeders.  Run on that Republican traditional value politicians!  

This became the years of the hybrids and crop yields went through the roof!  But the concentration was entirely on bushels per acre and very little else.  In many cases the plants required disease resistance in order to produce well and that was bred into the plants.  I don't want to disparage many advances made in this time frame because a lot of valuable work was done that should not be thrown out simply because the primary interest was in selling hybrid seeds.  

Mind you, to me, the line was crossed with genetically modifying plant seeds.  And patenting seeds. This is one more of the incursions the 'industrial' model of agriculture.  Once the industrial model was applied to agriculture, and profit became the only motive, agriculture as a whole was set adrift, and no part was more adrift than plant breeding.  The point was to make profit and keep making profit for as long as possible.  Hence, patents were 'necessary' and positive traits, valuable to individual gardeners and farmers and the eventual consumers (like taste) became lost in the race for profit.  By the time I became an adult gardener in the 1980's, seeds no longer were the seeds of my grandfather.

More on this tomorrow: the next frontier for garden seeds.


Monday, June 20, 2011

The Seed Industry

From this morning's brainstorming session, reasons why we dislike Genetically Modified Organisms, especially Monsanto.  It was at my insistence that 'Evil' was added to the list; no other word describes my perception of companies that strive to be in control of the world's seed supply.

91% of the soybean crop in the US today is GMO
85% of the corn crop is GMO

Have you heard of the 1986 Coordinated Framework Regulation of Biotechnology?  Do you know what it means?

These are a few of the points covered this morning.  I am having to write this on my lunch break as I will be having dinner with some friends this evening.

While there is a lot of really distressing information around seed companies and the way seeds are purveyed today, there is also a groundswell of really good work going on right now.  The sad thing is that it represents such a small portion of the total seed produced.  That smallness also keeps us off the radar of regulators and that is good. 

Class is getting ready to start again - I'll write again with more soon!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Starting Seed School

Belle Star (the attractive one on the left) and Bill McDorman, lead instructor, take our class through some thought provoking exercises for the evening.

Late this afternoon, 20 some students met our instructors, in the Native Seed/SEARCH facility in north Tucson to meet and set our intention for the coming week.  It was an interesting day in Tucson.  First of all, the high was about 101F and in the afternoon some tree-bending (hot!) winds came through.  When we went into the building about 5:00, the sun was shining and it was a gorgeous, if scorching, day.  When we came out, we were amazed at the landscape; the sky was gray and overcast in a way that did not seem natural.  Many of the students in this class are from, or have family living in, the areas of Arizona that have huge wild fires burning through and the thought went naturally to 'smoke!' but it was from the wrong direction.  Finally, we deduced it was dust kicked up by the wind.

We got there at 5:00, had a meal of some homemade soup Bill had put together, including big beautiful Red Runner beans and a lot of other home grown vegetables, corn bread (yum!) and a lot of fruit.  We took a tour of the facility.  The highlight of the tour for me was the 600 square foot refrigerator!  I have worked in many restaurants in my life all of which have a walk-in cooler and some had walk in freezers, but I've never been in one this large.  It was exciting all the more because it was filled with seeds!  Most of the seeds in the cooler part are seeds folks will buy in the coming months - the freezer holds long term storage seeds that represent valuable lines of seed to be preserved.
In this photo, corn seeds are held waiting to be dispensed into packets and sent to customers of Native Seed/SEARCH - I have always encouraged people to order from mail order seed houses for this reason - the seeds are kept under ideal circumstances until they are packed for you.  Buying from the local Big Box you get seeds that have been on the showroom rack for how long and under very questionable circumstances.  My local OSH moves their seed rack out into full sun everyday until they sell the seed or return them for credit - after a month, the viability of the seed is greatly degraded.

We spent time learning about one another - I loved that we were to tell our names, the name of the watershed where we live (I'm Ballona Creek), the amount of rainfall we get per year (the Los Angeles average is about 13", I was amazed at how many in the room had single digit rainfall per annum!  Gave me a new perspective!).  In this class there are folks starting seed banks, libraries, companies and all kinds of enterprises! There are students from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Mexico City! We range in age from the twenties to sixties and represent many different walks of life.  

My intention is to blog nightly until Friday, I hope to present some of the knowledge learned in seed school here in this blog.  I see we have several night sessions in addition to the day session, so I don't know if that'll hold, but I'm going to commit to that schedule for now.  


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

MINUTES 6th Meeting MAY 15, 2011

Minutes of the 6th Meeting of SLOLA
(Seed Library of Los Angeles)
May 15, 2011
Executive Committee present: David King, Lucinda Zimmerman, Sarah Spitz, Cheryl Noda
Absent: Ledette Gambini
Chairman David King called the meeting to order.
Treasurer’s Report was not distributed but we are carrying a modest balance from membership fees and the only upcoming expenses are related to the transfer of SLOLA.org from GoDaddy (which we no longer will patronize due to unethical big game hunting practices of its founder) to FatCow, a green service provider. We will soon be able to use slola.org email addresses for SLOLA communications.
Minutes of previous were distributed by Secretary Sarah Spitz; all meeting Minutes are (presently) housed at our blog slola.blogspot.com. Last month’s presentation was by Megan Bomba on cucurbits. Notes on the presentation are in the minutes of the April meeting.
Committee reports:
Best practices co-chair Albert Chang was unable to make this month’s meeting. Report by David King. Last month’s first major seed distribution went well.
Database: Linda Preuss said thanks to Shelley LaRocca the database of inventory is moving along and will as soon as possible, be posted to the website for people to peruse. Questions such as, should we keep Garden Notes that would help us “predict” how well a particular variety reproduced, germinated, yielded, etc…We should do a training session on record keeping: 2 sets of records, tags on plants and notebook or computer file.
Search function is coming, down the road. First we need to get the fundamentals of the website up and running.
One video made at the April meeting, “What is SLOLA,” is almost ready for viewing. Should be on the website when it is ready.
David mentioned that the database work is not just technically proficient but aesthetically pleasing. Congrats to the committee!
Membership: We have 85 members, 8 new members from the last meeting alone. All are in the member database.
Suggestions were made that we produce an article for Horticulture Society magazine.
Lucinda Zimmerman donated 2 SLOLA Banners, and made a bonus mug for David…
In stock: approximately 250 varieties of seed, 130 are logged in.
Notes: Winter seeds still need to be inventoried. DO WE HAVE ANY VOLUNTEERS to help?
Volunteer librarians need to be found and trained and regular hours should be established for seed distributions. David suggested that we establish regular shifts, perhaps weekends, 10 am to 1:30 pm; 1:30pm to 5 pm. We would like to shoot for starting this regularly in mid-August.
Also, we are trying to establish SATELLITE INVENTORIES, with other community gardens across LA. Bettina Gatti and Albert Chang, for ex., could head up a San Fernando Valley branch. The eventual goal would be to have only two meetings a year, a Spring/Fall dichotomy, and the main work at these meetings would be big seed distributions. The executive committee can meet before, and committees would continue to meet on their own.
We would like to try to have a version of the bylaws ready by the next meeting, if possible.
David gave a presentation on PEPPERS:
Go to Organic Seed Alliance website OSA.org for complete details, free download, and distance charts.
Eggplant and peppers are in the same family. Tomatoes have male and female parts, they self-fertilize so seeds can easily be saved.
Eggplants and peppers are trickier due to cross pollination. If you have two varieties of peppers, for example an “early jalapeno” and a “healthy” planted closer then 1600 fee apart, they can cross and then the seed that comes out will not breed “true” to the original.
But you can accomplish keeping them apart by planting at different times, so that one set flowers before the other, and they can’t cross. You can also cage them: frames stapled with remay or other row cover material that allows water and air to come in but keeps pollinating insects out. Seed savers uses screen instead of remay. Move cages over the plants when they are flowering.
For ex: week 1, you see the first flowers, you put 4 cages over each of your 4 “healthy” pepper plants. Week 2, take them off and cover the early jalapeno. Then week 3, again cover the “healthy” pepper, and week 4, again cover the “early jalapeno.” This way, only one set of flowers will be pollinated each week.
All of the chart distances were established based on agricultural stations in areas without buildings or trees. Sometimes mere separation on a property in an urban environment can keep the plants from being pollinated. You may want to consider whether neighbors are also planting peppers/eggplants and plan accordingly.
When you are saving seed, remember you are saving if for the next generation of growing, so know what you are selecting for – take peppers off to cook with, but leave some on the plant for seed. Green peppers are immature; they will change color. So leave it on till it changes color, red or yellow…allow the pepper to “senesce” – that is, wrinkle, then scrape out the seeds and dry them.
Do not package the seeds until they are completely dry. An easy test for moisture is to take a hammer and if the seed shatters, it’s dry.
Best way to dry: food dehydrator, or a secure location that is bright and warm (top of fridge), inside oven (with only pilot light going), or sit and try in a paper bac.
Test the seeds by putting 10 seeds on a moist paper tower, second paper towel on top of that, roll up, put on fridge (or warm spot) and if 5 germinate, your germination rate is 50%...8 – 80%, 4 – 40 %...etc.
Sunday, July 10 at 2:30 for General meeting. Exec committee and committees should be there at 1:45.
UPDATE TO MINUTES: Tim Smith has accepted the post of Membership Committee Chairperson.
Submitted by Sarah Spitz

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

GMO Seeds Face A More Skeptical Public As Studies Show Problems

Credit the Seed Library of Los Angeles and the people that make it happen with being ever so slightly ahead of the curve.  It seems like Monsanto and other biotech firms are going to be facing a public that is increasingly unreceptive to being hoodwinked.  Shrill cries that we need biotech to prevent world hunger now are being compared to studies that find GMO food causes documented harm to the animals that consume them (humans are in the class of critters called 'animals' lest you don't know).

First, Round Up Birth Defects! - the story is more notable in that it doesn't really address that Round Up causes birth defects but rather that regulators knew it caused birth defects as much as 21 years ago!  It makes me sad that these corporations were able to keep that little nugget of truth out of the public eye for so long.  Still, just on gut level, many people have decided that GMO food can't possibly be good for you.

One of the points that the producers of GMOs have always made is that genetically modifying plants in the lab was merely an extension of plant breeding that man has done since the beginning of agriculture. A quick perusal of the facts shows that this claim is truly stupendous in the leaps of logic it tries to take - there is nothing about genetically modifying DNA that compares to traditional plant breeding.  No amount of traditional plant breeding would ever get genes from a completely other living entity into a plant's DNA.  There is nothing in traditional plant breeding that messes with DNA in the same way as genetic modification and to try to define it as merely an extension of choosing plants that exhibit qualities we prefer is preposterous and insulting us with this argument needs to be stopped.  

We know climate change is upon us.  I have planted beets this week - they are a 'winter crop' in Los Angeles, but with the continued coolness of June (June is never HOT, but the cool has been a little too cool for me), I am not doing what I did last year.  Last year, it was cool this late in June and I waited in vain for the heat that never came.  I got 10% of the tomato harvest I got the year before.  This year I am not going to repeat; I will plant a cool weather crops along side my heat lovers and figure I'll get something from one or the other. A report from the New York Times talks about the struggles we will be up against in feeding the exploding human population on this earth.

Finally, a paper that declares that Public Research, Not GMOs Is the Key To World Food Supplies.  We come back to the central fact that the Seed Library of Los Angeles embodies:  the best way to save seeds from contamination by genetic modification and its host of problems, is to grow seeds of edible species in the cities - away from modern farming practices that pollute food with poisons and allow contamination from genetic modification.  The good news is that these negatives barely exist in the city (compared to farmland) and so we can grow our food and our plants to seed with a purity that cannot be obtained in out of the city.

SLOLA's next meeting will be July 10th at The Learning Garden at 2:00 PM.  Please come out and support our work for the good of all of us - we will have a fresh boatload of seeds available to check out from our library and other fun things to share.