Taking the Safe Seed Pledge
Frederick County Master Gardener
How do you know that the seeds and plants you put in your garden
and yard are not genetically bioengineered with genes spliced from pesticides or other plants? The short answer is you can't. Changes are on a molecular level, unverifiable
without special training and equipment, if then.
Many of us will recall from high school biology the 19th century Austrian monk, Gregor Johann Mendel, "the father of genetics", crossing different
varieties of garden peas and recording the results of his work in a methodical scientific manner eventually explaining the inheritance of characteristics resulting from the
combination of parent genes. He did this by hand, laboriously transferring pollen from pea X to pea Y, thereby "creating" pea XY carrying traits of each parent plant. Today's
science is way beyond that. The crossing is no longer hand pollination but super sophisticated gene splicing between plants and even animals and insects.
Regulatory agencies governing the issue now are basically three: the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the United
States Department of Agriculture. While some regulations do apply to GE, with few exceptions, these agencies consider GE plants and plant products to be substantially
equivalent to non-genetically bioengineered plants, those developed just as Mendel did a century ago.
Until the government requires labeling, you can avoid GE in your garden by saving seeds from plants you know to be pure and purchasing new seeds &
plants of heritage, heirloom or hybrid varieties from companies who are also concerned about GE. One way to do this is to patronizing companies who are members of the Safe
Seed Initiative sponsored by the Council for Responsible Genetics. Over 100 member companies have taken a "Safe Seed Pledge" to "not knowingly buy or sell genetically
engineered seeds or plants." Listed below are three popular and reputable seed companies who have taken the Safe Seed Pledge.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
2278 Baker Creed Rd.
Mansfield, MO 65704
Web site www.rareseeds.com
Although you can't tell it from the fairy tale picture on the cover, Baker Creek Seeds is militantly committed to providing non-GE seed and plants.
Along with an extensive offering of heirloom and heritage varieties, their 83 page color catalog will urge you to get in touch with national food companies and your
congressional leaders to lobby against GE. Owner Jere Gettle also publishes "The Heirloom Gardener Magazine" and each year sponsors two large public events celebrating
Johnny's Selected Seeds
955 Benton Ave.
Winslow, ME 04901-2601
Web site www.johnnyseeds.com
Johnny's is almost universally popular with Master Gardeners and certified organic growers. They publish a catalog for the general public and one for
commercial growers. Both are chocked full of detailed growing information and tips. Johnny's offers over 100 varieties of certified organically grown seed, clearly marked in
the catalog. The non-seed hardware gardening products and other items they offer are ones that true gardeners will use, none of the cutesy stuff.
1414 Zimmerman Rd.
Woodstock, IL 60098
Web site www.grandmasgarden.com
Underwood Gardens, Ltd. "presents a compendium of hard-to-find, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds". This is a cool catalog, something different,
printed with green ink and sprinkled throughout with drawings by their local children. Here you will find unusual herbs such as Cherokee Sweet Mint (Pycnanthemum incanum),
Khella (Ammi visnaga) and Toothache Plant (Spilanthes oleracea). I doubt you will see those at your local mega-mart next summer. A section of "Garden Angels" offers for sale
items that can help with or improve life and time in the garden, for example fish sauce a co-fermentation of fish and plant (algae) residue to increase plant vigor and deter
insects. They say it does not smell. For each $15 of order placed you get to choose a free packet of seeds from a list of favorites, unlike other companies offering you free
seed and then sending you something you might not plant. Small catalog of 64 pages full of surprises.
Kitchen Garden Seeds
23 Tulip Drive
PO Box 638
Bantam, CT 06750-0638
Web site www.kitchengardenseeds.com
John Scheepers is better known for selling bulbs, hence their Tulip Drive address, but they also print this small beautifully illustrated 47 page seed
catalog of old time kitchen garden favorites. Barbara Damrosch, garden author and Washington Post garden columnist, is their special consultant so tips and garden advice is
more interesting than in your average catalog. On the back cover are an assortment of collections which offer groups of seed packets at a reduced price. "A Child's Garden of
Wonder" collection consists of Purple Podded Pole Beans, Wee Be Little Pumpkins, Spooktacular Pumpkins, Flamivil Radishes, Adelaide Baby Carrots, Zuchetta Tromolina Squash
and Sungold Cherry Tomatoes.
Select Seeds Antique Flowers
180 Stickney Hill Rd.
Union, CT 06076-4617
Web site www.selectseeds.com
Select Seeds sells "heirloom treasures for modern gardens". Luscious photographs for each variety offered are accompanied by short biographical and
historical information for many. If you are searching for historically accurate plantings for your Victorian or Federal or even earlier style house, this is the catalog. 67
page catalog selling seeds and plants.
For the complete listing of over 100 Safe Seed pledged companies, go to the web site of The Council for Responsible Genetics at
www.gene-watch.org. FYI: you probably won't find your local mega-mart or big box store on this list any time soon.
Read other articles on ecological gardening & native plants
Read other articles by Lee Royer