Botany

Heritage seeds protect varity and nutrition



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Food is culture. In every society, climate, customs and availability of choice depends upon local food choices. Even civilization is affected by how much food production allows them freedom from hunger and time to develop and improve technology, science and art.

Heirloom seeds have many advantages according to many proponents. Among these advantages are

-freedom of cultural choices

-freedom of food choices

-increased flavor and nutrients

-natural resistance to weeds

-natural resistance to pests

-protection of human health

-protection of environmental health

On the other side of the argument are the corporations, such as Monsanto, that promotes non-heritage seeds as increasing yields and higher profits. The creation of GMO, (genetically modified organisms), is controversial because they often are sold without identifying labels. Critics charge this limits choice. They also charge that pesticides, herbicides and their use actually increase genetic resistance among pests and weeds. The environment then suffers environmental costs that consumers and tax payers must pay to correct. In other words, profits are privatized and external costs are socialized. This amounts also to political influence of wealthy interests, so must be examined.

Health practitioners charge that heirloom variety seeds offer more flavor, more nutrition and greater overall health benefits. The accumulated effects of increased toxins, they say, include carcinogenic (cancer causing) toxins, and endocrine disruption of animal and human hormonal systems. This affects the long term health of reproductive health. It also has unknown long term effects, such as the cascading loss of species and the potential disasters of missing links in the web of life. Already, many reports of stressed and disappearing animals and crucial pollinators are on the rise.

Also to be considered are the cultural traditions that are threatened. Most human culture centers on food. Corn for native Americans, especially in Latin America, rice in Asian culture, wheat in Europe and other dietary foundations world-wide depend upon variety. Because all of life is inter-connected, diversity is essential for organisms to thrive and survive. It is a natural law of evolution that variety is the driver of inter-dependent air, water, soil and therefore, food quality.

Critics also charge that GMO seeds heavily favor monopoly and monoculture.  The same international corporations that offer non-heirloom seeds and crops offer the same fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides that GMO crops seem to require in ever increasing amounts. It is believed by scientists and agricultural experts that weeds, pests and some bacteria and viral infections are increased due to genetic resistance to pesticides and herbicides. They also are concerned that environmental costs, such as depleted soils, waste run off, water contamination and loss of habitat of more greatly diverse organisms should be important considerations.

There are concerns, also, that long term consequences are unknown. Due to climate change, the increased frequency and severity of storms, floods, wild fires, droughts, and habitat destruction requires that stored food supplies should be protected. Having non heirloom seeds, or having sterilized food of any kind could cause mass starvation when the next natural disaster occurs, or worse, when cascade effects create wide spread hunger, panic and conflict.

Heirloom seeds offer community cooperation as well. They link farmer to farmer and agricultural customer to co-ops, local food providers, farmers markets and long known cultural traditions centering on production, distribution and preparation of food.

In many ways, the controversy centers on yields and profits. The monopoly of any food production, especially when toxins are considered, is crucial. When the world is already suffering great upheavals due to climate change and a huge world-wide consideration of addiction to fossil fuels is considered, the careful analysis of Heirloom seeds and food crops is worth much investigation.

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-1-4614-1587-9
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/research/homepages/eclark/starlink.htm
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture/