Heirloom seeds are disappearing at an alarming rate. The more we understand about this dilemma, the more we will be willing to do our part. In the old days, people saved their seed. There was no hybrid seed. So each area, each small climate maintained what grew well in that area. We worked as a community and shared heirloom seeds. Now we go to the store and depend on large corporations to provide our seed. This works for now, but what about our grandchildren? Each year we lose more and more heirloom varieties, from vegetables, grains, fruits, and berries. Annie Bond explains some of the reasons we need to save these varieties in her article Why it Matters to Buy Heirloom Plants and Seeds.
The loss of genetic seed diversity facing us today may lead to a catastrophe far beyond our imagining. The Irish potato famine, which led to the death or displacement of two and a half million people in the 1840s, is an example of what can happen when farmers rely on only a few plant species as crop cornerstones.
One blight wiped out the single potato type that came from deep in the Andes mountains; it did not have the necessary resistance. If the Irish had planted different varieties of potatoes, one type would have most likely resisted the blight.
We can help save heirloom seeds by learning how to buy and save these genetically diverse jewels ourselves.
ABOUT SEEDS One kind of seed, called First generation hybrids (F1 hybrids), have been hand-pollinated, and are patented, often sterile, genetically identical within food types, and sold from multinational seed companies.
A second kind of seeds are genetically engineered. Bioengineered seeds are fast contaminating the global seed supply on a wholesale level, and threatening the purity of seeds everywhere. The DNA of the plant has been changed. A cold water fish gene could be spliced into a tomato to make the plant more resistant to frost, for example.
So grow and save your own heirlooms. Check out www.downtoearthseeds.com.