Written by Anna Clayton, FoodFutures Coordinator
“What does a seed symbolise for you?”
For many people, seeds symbolise life as all the food we eat relies on the humble seed. Because of this simple fact, seeds also symbolise power as those who control and own our seed ultimately control our food system. Saving your own seed can therefore be a very empowering act.
For others, a seed is a time capsule – providing hope for future bountiful harvests whilst connecting us to our ancestors and the many humans before us that have supported the slow process of adapting wild plants to those we know today. As they grew and saved seed year after year, plants adapted to local conditions and this led to agricultural diversity all over the world. From purple carrots in Afghanistan, we created orange carrot varieties that can be grown here in North Lancashire.
However, with the emergence of seed companies and the introduction of F1 hybrids by fertiliser companies in the 1900s, the tradition of seed saving has rapidly disappeared from many UK allotment sites, gardens and farms. This process of commercialising seed has resulted in the loss of around 75% of agricultural genetic diversity worldwide since the early 1900s. It has also led to increasing corporate control of our seed and food system.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization: “Plant genetic diversity is … one of the central preconditions for food security. It … provides the genetic traits required to address crop pests, diseases and changing climate conditions”. Diversity in plants also gives us a range of options for raising the healthiest and most productive (and tastiest) crops.
We are now at a point where we are lacking a seed saving tradition in the North West of England and there is little access to sustainably grown seed in the UK. Only 3% of all seed available to grow on the UK market is organic.
For all these reasons (and more) Lancaster seed library is encouraging local gardeners, allotment growers and farmers to start re-saving and sharing open pollinated seed.