I learnt a lot from my NYU course on food policy and food crisis. Seeds and the controversy behind them was one of those things:
It seems that not many of us are aware where our food comes from these days and happily assume it must be safe and edible. Well, it might be edible; but I am not sure how safe we can call it. A lot has to do with a concept called ‘substantial equivalence’. I believe Michael Pollan’s book: An omnivore’s dilemma introduced me to this term. What it means is this:
Developed by OECD in 1991, maintains that a novel food (for example, genetically modified foods) should be considered the same as and as safe as a conventional food if it demonstrates the same characteristics and composition as the conventional food. So, as long as it looks and tastes like a red tomato, we can consider it a red tomato (even if it’s more red plastic than the food).
A little scary, right? And that’s how I learned that of all the innumerable food products offered in a supermarket boiled down to two main ingredients: corn and soya. As well as, 98% of soya sold in the world now is controlled by one company; Monsanto and it’s mostly genetically modified soya; whose effects on our bodies are still unsure.
That’s why I was really interested and happy to learn about local organizations who were promoting heirloom seed sales. Heirloom seeds can be considered more or less the opposite of industrialized seeds.
Heirloom growers have different motivations. Some people grow heirlooms for historical interest, while others want to increase the available gene pool for a particular plant for future generations. Some select heirloom plants due to an interest in traditional organic gardening. Many simply want to taste the different varieties of vegetables, or see whether they can grow a rare variety of plant.
CTF: This is a NJ based organization that started with the aim of promoting both social and environmental sustainability. Seedlings purchased from CFT help fund the CFT’s Junior Gardener Program. Kids from the Waterfront South neighborhood of Camden are trained and employed by the CFT and help to care for the gardens, make rain barrels and otherwise learn important vocational and social skills. Learn more and support CFT through: http://www.cfet.org/