Why we need to save our Irish seeds
The Irish Seed Savers Association was founded in 1991 by Anita Hayes to preserve the seeds of rare heritage agricultural plants. In 2014 when the Department of Agriculture drastically reduced funding, their vital work was left hanging by a thread. With the help of a crowd funding campaign they endured the sparsity and several years on, the team at Scarriff, Co. Clare continue to raise awareness and protect our futures.
Not so long ago farmers and gardeners only grew fruit, vegetables and grains from seeds that they saved from a previous crop. These particular seed varieties, referred to as open-pollinated varieties, self-pollinate to produce plants that are true-to-type; as in exhibiting the same characteristics as the parent. Some plants species are also open to cross-pollination with similar varieties which means care must be taken to isolate them from their first cousins in order to obtain genetically pure seed.
Up to 50 years ago in communities throughout Ireland seeds were selected from the hardiest and most vigorous plants, swapped with neighbours and, in some cases, creatively cross-pollinated to produce a diverse selection of localized plant varieties. This is no longer how most of us operate.
We now trundle down to our nearest garden centre to buy a packet of F1 hybrid vegetable seeds or choose a fruit tree from the limited selection of varieties. F1 hybrid seeds are the result of genetically different parents and are either sterile or produce unstable offspring. This means we all, gardeners and commercial growers alike, unthinkingly buy our hybrid seeds annually. And so, largely down to: profit before sustainability; public demand for uniformity; and our detachment from the land, over the course of the last century more than 70% of our native fruit and vegetable varieties have disappeared. Forever.
The global control exerted by a certain multinational on our food supply through the patenting of “hybrid vigor”, disease-resistant seedstock is shocking enough but loss of agricultural diversity is further cause for concern. We need to have a wide variety of plants at our disposal to ensure genetic diversity. This means we are better equipped to respond to any environmental challenges that may come our way. It is important that our country has independent resources to adapt and evolve our food supply to suit the changing weather conditions.
This is where The Irish Seed Savers Association comes in. While we were fondling seed packets down the garden centre Irish Seedsavers were tirelessly gathering and preserving for our future. Although the charity has managed to survive the austerity, their future is ever tenuous. We do need them to survive, so please support them in any way you can. It is a very real and sound investment in our childrens’ futures. Become a member, attend a course or open day and, best of all, grow the seed!
More info: Great article here by Sylvia Thompson from The Irish Times 2014
This post was written by Karen Winkens for www.greenjamjar.com where it was originally posted.