Living a provident lifestyle is more than just frugal or self-reliant living. It also means cultivating a connection to your community and making economic choices based on your morality. Our food choices are just one area that reflect our morality and community values. So much of our food supply is charged and impacted by politics and a select few mega-corporations. This is one big reason I like to grow as much of my food as I can.
But, it turns out, just growing my own food is no guarantee that I am not enriching immoral or predatory corporations. Applying my morals to my eating starts with a decision as small as which seeds to plant.
Here are my values when I choose what to eat:
Community. I want food that has as little negative impact on the environment. That means I try to buy local and organic.
Bio-diversity. Over the last 100-or-so years, the choices of seed varieties has dramatically reduced. Look at this chart. In 1903 there were almost 500 varieties of lettuce. Today there are fewer than 40. There were over 300 varieties of corn. Today, just 12. Why is bio-diversity so important? food choices. Monsanto is one of the single biggest threats to bio-diversity, heirloom seeds and sustainable farming. Here’s more on why biodiversity is important to me.
Environment. Yes, there is such a thing as extreme environmentalism. But I don’t think it’s extreme to leave as little negative impact on the earth as possible. When camping in the wilderness, the Scout motto is “Leave no trace behind.” Or, as my mom used to say “There’s no maid service here. Clean up after yourself.” I think it’s wrong to deliberately or wantonly use chemicals that unnecessarily harm wildlife or pollutes the water or air.
Economy. There is so much need and poverty in the world. I do not want to contribute to it by giving my business to companies that exploit the poor.
Who are the bad guys?
When it come to the agricultural industry, there are few baddies as bad as Monsanto, followed closely by Syngenta and their cousins Dow, Bayer, DuPont and BASF.
Monsanto has a long record of ruining farmers. Back in the 80’s Monsanto “accidentally” added RoundUp to their organic insecticidal soap. Many organic producers unwittingly used these chemical-laden products. Not only did they lose their crops, they also lost their organic certification for three years. When these financially ruined farmers asked for compensation, Monsanto said their only obligation was to reimburse them what they paid for the insecticidal soap.
More recently, Monsanto has taken to spraying famers’ fields with Roundup if they suspect the farmer is using non-licensed Roundup-resistant GMOs. If the farmer’s crop doesn’t die, they have proof that the farmer has violated their patent and they sue the farmer. If the crop dies…oops. They’ll reimburse the farmer for the cost of the seed he planted. Several farmers have sued when they’ve had their livelihood ruined by this tactic.
Wait! What?? Patented seeds?!
That’s right. For millennia, farmers have been saving seeds from their crops to plant in following seasons. No longer. If a farmer saves seeds patented by Monsanto, he can be sued. This is especially harmful to farmers in third world countries who are often on the brink of poverty.
This ownership of seeds is no small thing. Monsanto owns or controls the vast majority of food production. It holds patents on over 1,600 seeds, controlling 76% of the food grown in the US, Brazil and Argentina. That’s an awful lot of power in one companies hands.
Buy good seed
It’s not easy to find seed that isn’t owned by Monsanto. Monsanto and a handful of biotech companies have bought up over smaller 200 seed companies. That means that pretty much all the seeds in the garden centers are Monsanto controlled. Most of the seeds catalogs are, as well.
But it is possible to keep Monsanto and its subsidiaries out of your garden. Here is a list of seed suppliers that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge. The Top Ten in this article are also my favorite companies. Here’s why:
- They’ve all signed the Safe Seed Pledge. That means they are committed to growing and preserving the diversity of the old seed varieties.
- They have a business model based on an ethical respect for seeds and the people growing them.
- They support and promote non-hybrid, usually organic, seed.
- They support bio-diversity and are often actively involved in the organized effort to preserve old seed varieties.
Yes, their seed is often more expensive than the seeds available at the big-box stores. But my focus is not merely on this month’s family budget, but the impact that my buying choices have on my community, the environment, our food supply, and that of my children. Hopefully, that is something you are concerned about, as well.