Archives for posts with tag: seed sovereignty


Last weekend I was incredibly moved to be in the presence of seeds descended from those which Vavilov and his colleagues saved under wartime duress (i.e. a Stalinist prison, and starvation).  These were exhibited as part of the Artes Mundi exhibition at National Museum Cardiff in which the Futurefarmers collective of artists installed visuals to their “Seed Journey” exploration of the history and future of seeds as part of our common heritage. Amy Franceschini explains some of the project in this video below:

A few days later I found myself working at an event where Anne Parry of Felin Galon Watermill was speaking on behalf of her visionary efforts to network farmers, millers, brewers and bakers around “Welsh Grain.” We talked a bit about the Cardiff exhibition, and she shared that some Welsh grown wheat had gone off on the sea-faring adventures of FutureFarmers.

So exciting! I went home and wrote to Anne, asking if she could write a paragraph for this blog, sharing the story.  And she responded:

“As part of their Seed Journey the Flatbread Society were meeting with Andy Forbes of the Brockwell Bake in London. The Welsh Grain Forum has been collaborating with Andy, who is wonderfully knowledgeable and committed, to reintroduce the wheat Hen Gymro back to Wales….so since The Seed Journey group were travelling to Cardiff it seemed appropriate that we celebrate this by them symbolically bringing us a sheaf of Hen Gymro from Andy when they came up to Cardiff. (Pics from the Brockwell Bake gallery here). About half a dozen WGF members were able to be there and it turned out to be a simple, inspiring and encouraging event where we received the wheat, gave them samples of Hen Gymro grown once more in Wales, and other Welsh grown heritage cereals, to take on their journey and then shared bread and cakes baked with our locally grown and milled flour. There’s something about the it by Artes Mundi here , and stuff on our Welsh Grain Workshop page and on Rupert Dunn’s Torth y Tir page.”

Really wanted to share this wonderful story which gives Hen Gymro an epic adventure, its itself part of the whole global Story of seeds, grain, people, history.

And now, a moment with Johnny Cash, and an affecting photomontage:

I alway’s appreciate Elisabeth’s clear writing and logic. A good piece on what we might expect in the UK regarding the deregulations proponents of Brexit hope to bring to the UK.

Real Food Lover

gmo-free-europe-530x363 Image from Sustainable Pulse 

“Waiter, waiter, where is the genetically modified food on the menu?”

Do you know anyone clamouring to eat genetically modified (GM) food?

One of the many reasons I voted Remain in the 2016 referendum was because the European Union (EU) largely protects its citizens against this unproven technology.

EU – a buffer against GM

Look, I am not saying the European Union (EU) is perfect. It needs reform. Obvs. 

But, in some areas, it has acted on my behalf.

The EU has also largely prevented the commercial growing of GM crops, only giving permission for one GM crop to be grown. 

In addition, European consumers can make informed choices about whether or not to eat GM thanks to the EU insisting that GM ingredients are labelled (unlike in North America, where its citizens are now campaigning for GM labelling). 

(Sadly, the EU does not label…

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Here’s “Man in the Maze,” a short film about Food System problems (hideous) and people-centered solutions (beautiful).  The film is specific to “the geopolitical boundary with the greatest economic disparity in the world” but offers inspiration to people anywhere working hard “to rebuild the food system up from the bottom in a participatory way,” as Gary Paul Nabhan puts it in the interview — “to heal that food system, our economies, our bodies, and the land.”

Thanks to the lovely Charlotte Spring for the recommendation.


Would you call this performance a kind of Housewife Burlesque? I don’t know but I think she’s fabulous! Watch and tell us what you think.

“Everybody’s good at cooking something, I’m good at cooking Crumble.” Since May when Lorraine Bowen was on Britain’s Got Talent, my kids go around singing this song, so I sing it too now.  We all sing it–it’s catchy!

Here we have a large forage of end-of-September blackberries picked by husband and son.


And despite that it’s now October, there are still perhaps some bramble bushes fruiting in abundance. Read the rest of this entry »

Watch this video and see how seeds are so much a part of the commons,  in societies around the world.  Seed sharing not selling– a foundation of Food Sovereignty and therefore Food Security, as well as the continuance of culture and community…  It can all be a bit abstract, like the language I’ve just used, until you see women like these talking about the seeds that sustain their lives.

Yesterday I came across these videos and wanted to share them on Kitchen Counter Culture.

Insight Share is a really interesting organisation that brings training and video equipment to remote communities across the globe.  The idea is that people who lack economic and technical access are shared the means to tell their own stories and communicate with each other through video and internet. This movement is called “Participatory Video.” Read the rest of this entry »

(Ok, maybe I wish he weren’t doing the send-up of Yes We Have No Bananas in the fake Caribbean accent, but I like the spirit, the internationalism, the multi-lingualism, the ukelele, the laughter, and of course the campaign for preserving food diversity and localism.)

Here’s a link to Seed Freedom’s Open Letter on GMO Bananas.  It’s perhaps a bit rambling, but an incredible piece that weaves together botany, politics, history, culture and art.  Reading it I realise how little I know about the world diversity of bananas.  I also never knew the poem, La United Fruit Co., by Pablo Neruda himself!

At the core of the letter is a profound belief I share:

“We do not need biopirates and biocolonialists … falsely claiming invention and monopoly rights over these local community controlled resources and biodiverse solutions for hunger and nutrition.”

The understanding is, in patenting food through genetic modification, it can only be sold back to people in a food system that relies on a foundation of treacherous economics.  A Food Sovereignty model envisions a less abstracted and tenuous relationship of people to their food– such as they may already have, banana trees growing in local varieties where they live.   Food-as-a-Commons — common heritage, common entitlement, inalienable — is a vision which makes patenting even more preposterous.

Anyway, just wanted to share the video and the campaign.


“We are selling off the Kumato Tomatoes AT COST because it has come to light that they are grown from patented seed. For ethical reasons we do not support patenting of seeds, therefore we will not be ordering Kumato Tomatoes again. If you are curious about this, put the words “kumato tomato syngenta” into a search engine or speak to [the managers].”


Today I saw this on my shift at Great Oak Foods in Llanidloes, in Powys, in Mid-Wales.  I am one of a community of people who give time working in the shop which we believe to be part of a local solution to many global-food conundrums.  The shop, as a community enterprise, aims:

1. To be a retail outlet for organic fresh foods and associated products to provide the opportunity for customers to make sustainable lifestyle choices.

2. To create opportunities for a local market for organically grown produce and to provide the means for sustainable employment in the community, ecologically and economically.

3. To support the local economy through a local purchasing policy and to make available a wider range of products in the area, and to reduce dependency on importing products, with associated food miles.

4. To encourage social investment in sustainable enterprise and to empower members of the community to become actively involved in issues surrounding local food and ecological sustainability.


My first feelings, reading the notice above about Kumato Tomatoes, were joy and pride to be living in community with people with similar commitments to social and ecological justice in the food system, and who act from a place of personal conscience .  And yet I wanted to investigate the issues involved to be sure that I wasn’t forming a knee-jerk opinion.  And to write about it on this blog as a document/ reflection of a kind of moment in time where local people (in this case, us) were asked by a situation to grapple with a wider social food issue, and how it might play out.

I spoke with the managers, and one shared with me his belief that patenting “discovery” was a different ethical issue to patenting an “invention”; he just couldn’t come to terms with the idea that something like a seed and varietal crossing could be patented– and he did note that this was not a case involving genetic modification, for which he could see a better case for patenting.  Which is not to say, obviously, that we support GM in any way.

One could make the case that Syngenta has developed a variety of tomato — through careful, old-fashioned, year-to-year testing and experimenting — that consumers want and desire for the special eating qualities it offers. And that Syngenta deserves to profit from its innovation and investment, and profit is the engine of technological and agricultural “progress.”  (Cringe.)

We learn from Wikipedia Kumato that “Syngenta maintains ownership of the variety throughout the entire value chain from breeding to marketing; selected growers must agree to follow specified cultivation protocols and pays fees for licenses per acre of greenhouse, costs of the seeds, and royalties based on the volume of tomatoes produced.”  Is the word for this vertical market integration?

This manager wrote an enquiring email to our wholesale supplier (which deals in organic foods, operates regionally, and is a much much smaller player than supermarket level), who responded with many perfectly justifiable points including: that Syngenta’s business strategy represents the  “club” approach which has gone on with the development of trees and shrubs and potatoes in a smaller business scale; this represents only a temporary market consolidation  because it’s so difficult to monitor and police; that customers want “good quality”;  growers need prolific and disease resistant varieties which can yield, for organic, a competitive price…

So what to believe?  Maybe we should just relent on this issue– even though, and this did niggle, the tomatoes somehow posture themselves on a shelf as if they are heirlooms or a local variety, seed carefully nutured by seed savers and cottage gardeners, and usurp the aesthetics the new food movement has created/ recreated.

I looked to my gut instinct.   We as a community around  “The Veg Shop” (as it’s affectionately called) share a vision of a food system gone wrong — in terms of the concentration of power in agribusiness and supermarkets, the overuse of pesticides unhealthy for people and biodiversity, the climate impacts of food miles and unseasonal eating.  We support organics, local food, local growers, the use of non-chemical pest management, small producers and fair-trade as a step towards justice for food workers far and wide.  We see agriculture within ecological and political contexts and support a horticultural scale we believe can be a part of building a new and better system.

Syngenta  is also a major player in pesticides, in a world in which bees and other insects are so perilously at risk and the Precautionary Principle is called for.  Syngenta also promotes GM crops, which represent health and ecological worry to many as well as a dangerous privatisation of seed stock and concentration of power in the big players.

There is also the on-going  battle in the EU to regulate seeds, plants and plant materials that can be sold; the big agriculture players punch hard, with their piles of money, and can pay the fees to register their own goods, while smaller breeders and gardeners are edged out.  The Wales-based Real Seed Company does great campaigning work on this issue— am looking forward to ordering some seeds from them.

We support the enfranchisement of the small players, for so many reasons: ecological, social, anti-hunger, food security, and more. The Seed Freedom folks often operate from the point of view that we need a paradigm shift; Jose Luis Vivero Pol argues really eloquently for “a re-commonification” of food—or, in other words, a transition where we work toward considering food as a commons as ..essential … in light of our broken global food system.”  Seeds are where food begin.

This article by Charles Eisenstein also delves into what’s wrong and how we can think about food differently in order to oppose hunger and food inequality and create a juster world, better ready for climate instability.

I’m not a Luddite really, nor particularly anti-innovation, and willing to keep an open mind towards different aspects of biotechnology– but I do have a different vision for the food system that needs to be developed to correct this one.  This to me is the basis of why I support the managers at Great Oak Foods– it’s not whom we’re against, so much as  it’s what we are for…


Dried Cholla Buds and Tepary Beans

Was just having a lazy browse on the Saveur Magazine website, and noticed a piece called “6 Native American Ingredients.” Curiously I clicked on a link, and found this website  for the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona. They have a small on-line shop. I would absolutely LOVE to try these cactus buds, and the tepary beans, brown and white both. They also have a magazine about traditional and contemporary foodways that looks great! Someday, someday, because I am so far (and postage would probably be prohibitive) but if you happen to be in the USA, you could order yourself those beans and buds and cook them up and tell me all about it.

Here’s another useful link should you happen to be in a cold, wet, constant drizzle of a climate like Wales dreaming of the soul foods of  a hot, dry dessert:


11 March 2014   Just read this Zester Daily piece on Decolonizing the Taste Buds from commodity foods….


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