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bought up some 20,000 seed com- panies, and the number of cultivated seed varieties dropped precipitously. Ten agrichemical companies now control more than two-thirds of the global seed market.


How do hybrid seeds differ


from open-pollinated seeds? You cannot save a hybrid seed; if you


try to use it, the results are unreliable. Hybrids are engineered to be planted for one year only. With open-pollinated and heirloom seeds, you’re planting reliable seeds saved from year to year, generation to generation, bred for the consistency of their qualities. Indigenous people in Mexico’s Oaxaca Valley, for example, have successfully cultivated local seeds for at least 8,700 years, right up to today. Hybrids require high levels of


chemical inputs to produce. Illustrating the contrast, Hopi corn, grown for thousands of years, requires little water and contains much more protein than today’s commercial crops, without poisoning the land with heavy indus- trial inputs. The Hopi think of seeds as their children, intimately connected with their heritage and culture, so they protect them. Beyond big, strong crops, farming is a spiritual act.


Why do so many farmers voluntarily choose hybrid seeds, given the troubling


issues involved? Most farmers just want streamlined labor and the biggest yield. Often, commodity crops using commercial seeds and chemical fertilizers have the biggest yield and make them the most money, even though severe downsides like the loss of fl avor and nutrients mean it’s ultimately not the best result. In India, more than 250,000 farmers


have committed suicide during the past 20 years to escape onerous debts accrued to purchase industrialized agricultural inputs. An Indian seed salesman interviewed for the fi lm despairs, “The seeds we sell don’t taste good and require so many chemicals that many farmers kill themselves.”


What is the seed-saver movement achieving, and how can everyday gardeners


and citizens take action? Seed libraries and banks are critically important because the seeds are adapted to the local environment. Seed libraries have multiplied from only a handful a few years ago to as many as 300 located in towns across America today. Public libraries check out seeds


to plant in your garden, asking only that you return harvested seeds for others to enjoy. Farmers can now “back up” their seeds in local seed banks, which are also becoming important educational resources to teach students about these issues.


To locate a screening or purchase a DVD of the fi lm, visit SeedTheMovie.com.


Connect with freelance writer April Thomp- son, in Washington, D.C., at AprilWrites.com.


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natural awakenings May 2017 53


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