Native Seeds S.E.A.R.C.H. in Tucson Arizona hosted visits from hundreds of professional garden writers learning about the mission of preserving genetic diversity in our food crops.
I had the privilege of visiting Native Seeds S.E.A.R.C.H. with the Garden Writers Association. This is a seed bank in Tucson, Arizona that tracks down unique seeds to preserve in the event that agricultural calamity should befall our country or the world.
Suppose a new fungus emerges that decimates our corn crops, or an insect pest emerges that favorites key legumes. Quite possibly, we could find some varieties of corn or beans that resist the fungus or insects. But we won’t be able to do that if the seeds for those varieties don’t exist.
The Peril of Monoculture
Modern agricultural practices result in wide distribution of a very limited variety of food plants. Huge swaths of our food belt grow a single variety of sweet corn—or several varieties that are so genetically similar they are all vulnerable in the same ways. Without a backup plan, simple biological changes in the environment could leave us all hungry.
Perhaps even more disturbing: So much of the corn and canola grown in the US is from genetically engineered seeds. Scarce but growing scientific studies suggest that the very genetics engineered into our food are responsible for the alarming rise in dozens of systematic diseases in the United States. Our government has not required long-term testing of these food products, and the plants harboring these potentially poisonous genes can cross-pollinate with pure plant breeds, making them as dangerous to health as the genetically engineered plants.
Home Gardeners as Potential Saviors
Home gardeners are one seemingly feeble protection our food supply has against these risky biological experiments (monoculture farming and genetic engineering). If we, the home gardeners, select heirloom varieties; if we grow our crops from seed bank stores, we can extend the genetic lines of an enormous variety of food plants that simply don’t interest commercial growers.
It was encouraging to see the excitement of this group of professional garden writers as they examined bowls of heirloom seeds. These writers will carry the message to their readers: help protect us against an agricultural disaster; diversify the food you grow. We home gardeners may have the power to save the world.
Learn more at the Native Seeds SEARCH website: Native Seeds SEARCH.
Enthusiastic garden writers got to examine bowls of seeds of all kinds of food plants. One see we examined appears to be the genetic precursor to all varieties of modern corn. How cool is that?