UPDATE: August 25, 2016
The California Seed Exchange Democracy Act passed out of the entire Senate and Assembly. It is now on the Governor's desk awaiting a signature. See prior update below for details about the bill's content. Click here to download a template letter of support to send to Governor Brown. Send letters by snail mail to the address in the template.
UPDATE: August 19, 2016
Happy summer! The seed team at Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) has been working on several exciting seed projects over the last couple of months. Enjoy the updates below and drop us a line if there's anything that particularly excites you!
California: The Seed Exchange Democracy Act (AB 1810) clarifies that noncommercial seed sharing is exempt from the California Seed Law's testing and labeling requirements is still pending. Thanks to continued advocacy and engagement from several organizations across the state, AB 1810 passed out of the Senate on August 18 and will soon be ready for the governor's signature, as early as next week! The bill makes the following specific changes:
- Defines "noncommercial seed sharing" as the "sharing or receiving of seed by a noncommercial entity without the creation of a contractual obligation or an expectation to receive anything of value in return." It does not prohibit receiving the progeny of seed that is shared.
- Exempts noncommercial seed sharing from the labeling and testing requirements of the law.
- Allows the CA Department of Food and Agriculture to solicit basic contact information for noncommercial seed sharing entities.
- Allows the CA Department of Food and Agriculture to post information on its website regarding best practices for noncommercial seed sharing.
- Click here to read the most updated version of the actual bill language.
- Illinois: A bill passed earlier this year in Illinois just took effect on August 16, 2016 that exempts "noncommercial seed sharing activities" from the state seed law's labeling, testing, permitting, and record keeping provisions. SELC offered ongoing support and consultations to the advocates in Illinois throughout the process and we're very excited about their success!
- California: The Seed Exchange Democracy Act (AB 1810) clarifies that noncommercial seed sharing is exempt from the California Seed Law's testing and labeling requirements is still pending. Thanks to continued advocacy and engagement from several organizations across the state, AB 1810 passed out of the Senate on August 18 and will soon be ready for the governor's signature, as early as next week! The bill makes the following specific changes:
- Recommended Uniform State Seed Law - In 2015, the Sustainable Economies Law Center proposed an amendment to model state seed legislation promoted by the Association of American Seed Control Officials (AASCO) at their annual meeting to exempt seed sharing. While the amendment was not accepted immediately, the members of the Association created a task force to develop a revised amendment to propose at their next annual meeting. The Sustainable Economies Law Center, Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library, Common Soil Seed Library, Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, and Grow Pittsburgh participated on the task force with representatives from the national seed industry trade group, seed companies, and seed control officials. After 6 months of discussion and negotiation, a compromise amendment was submitted and approved by the full AASCO membership at their 2016 annual meeting in July. The Sustainable Economies Law Center is excited about the opportunity for advocates to use the model language as the bare minimum of any new law addressing the legality of noncommercial seed sharing. You can read the text of the model amendment here. If you are considering advocating for a change to your state seed law, get in touch with us!
- Seed Savers Exchange Conference & Campout - Neil Thapar, who leads our Save Seed Sharing campaign, had the honor of attending and speaking at the annual Seed Savers Exchange Conference and Campout in July. In addition to sharing updates about our work to promote seed democracy in state seed laws, Neil also participated in conversations among seed librarians, Seed Savers Exchange, and USC-Canada throughout the weekend about creating an online network and clearinghouse for information to support the ongoing explosion in the number of local seed sharing entities. We're consistently inspired by the dedication of the seed sharing community to continue building momentum and awareness for the importance of locally grown, shared, and adapted seed!
- Up next: Immigrant and POC Farmers + Seeds - In our work so far learning about the variety of issues related to seeds and our economy, we've identified a significant gap in information and resources available regarding the seed needs, uses, and challenges in farming communities of color and immigrant farming communities. After speaking with several seed experts in California, we stumbled upon an unanswered question in the mainstream seed democracy movement in the US: How can we truly achieve seed democracy unless we integrate the needs and challenges of those most impacted by the harms of consolidated and industrial seed system, small-scale farming communities of color and immigrant farming communities? To learn more about the needs of these communities, the Sustainable Economies Law Center is embarking on a research and relationship-building project, with invaluable help from our talented Summer Intern, Adrien Salazar, who has been leading outreach efforts to people across the state. This project is just in the beginning stages and there will be more to share very soon. For now, please read and share our one page introduction if you're interested!
UPDATE: March 25, 2016
In 5 days, the Agricultural Committee of the California Assembly will debate whether to pass our bill, AB 1810 (Levine), the Seed Exchange Democracy Act. The bill clarifies that state law shouldn't treat seed libraries and exchanges the same way it treats commercial seed companies. Specifically, the bill exempts seed sharing activities from the testing, labeling, and record keeping requirements of the state seed law.
Over the past 3 months, we've advocated, communicated, and educated legislators and their staff about the important role that seed libraries, seed exchanges, and seed swaps play in promoting a stronger, more resilient, seed system. Increasing the number of varieties of seeds, promoting local food production, and preserving cultural heritage and traditions are just some of the ways in which seed sharing activities create more resilient communities. The law should make it easier, not more difficult, for communities to realize these benefits!
To ensure the continued growth of these responsible community institutions that are stewards of our seed commons, we need your help to convince the committee that AB 1810 is a bill worth voting into law when they have their hearing on Wednesday, March 30th.
On Monday, March 28th, can you take 5 minutes out of your day to make a phone call to speak up in support of seed democracy?
Here's what you do.
If you live in one of the following Assemblymember's district, call them. If not, then call the Chair of the Committee, Assemblymember Bill Dodd. Click here to find out who your state representatives are.
Bill Dodd (Chair)
Phone: (916) 319-2004
Devon J. Mathis (Vice Chair)
Phone: (916) 319-2026
Phone: (916) 319-2013
Phone: (916) 319-2003
Adam C. Gray
Phone: (916) 319-2021
Shannon L. Grove
Phone: (916) 319-2034
Phone: (916) 319-2044
Reginald B. Jones-Sawyer, Sr.
Phone: (916) 319-2059
Phone: (916) 319-2020
Rudy Salas, Jr.
Phone: (916) 319-2032
Here's what you can say.
Legislators are accustomed to receiving calls from constituents in support or opposition to specific bills, so a short call is not uncommon. You are welcome to express any number of reasons why you support the bill, but make sure you say three key things:
- Which bill you are expressing support for - In this case it's AB 1810.
- Explain why you support it - This can be as brief or long as you like. Be sure to mention if you participate in a seed library, grow and save seeds yourself, etc. If you're looking for talking points, we've listed 6 reasons why seed libraries are awesome here.
- Mention that you are a constituent located in the legislator's district - Of course, only if that's true.
Thank you for your support and commitment to creating a food system that works for all of us.
UPDATE: February 19, 2016
Today is the deadline for introducing legislation into the California Legislature for the 2015-2016 session. Thankfully, SELC and our partners found an author for our California bill - the Seed Exchange Democracy Act - earlier this month and the bill, AB 1810 (Levine) has been introduced! California is home to nearly 50 seed libraries and many more seed exchanges and seed swap events that are threatened by unclear language in the state seed law about whether their activities trigger application of the labeling, testing, and permitting requirements under the law. We hope to permanently clear up this legal uncertainty with our legislation, supported by the California seed library community and other food and farming advocacy organizations. To stay updated about the bill and learn more about it, head over to the Seed Exchange Democracy Act page.
UPDATE: July 29, 2015
This has been an active summer for SELC's Save Seed Sharing campaign. Because of the incredible support and partnership from Seed Matters, Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library, and Shareable.net, we've got good news to share about the progress we've made to support the international seed library community. Click here to read our Summer Update!
UPDATE: June 4, 2015
Another legislative victory! Last Wednesday, May 27th, Governor Pete Ricketts signed into law legislation that exempts seed libraries from the state's seed law, based on a bill drafted by Sustainable Economies Law Center. The bill clarifies the application of the law to exclude non-commercial exchanges within a seed library, protecting the legal status of seed libraries throughout the state and setting the stage for the continued growth of the seed library movement in Nebraska. We're extremely pleased with the result in Nebraska and thank Common Soil Seed Library for their leadership in advocating for this amendment to save seed sharing!
UPDATE: May 20, 2015
Victory! Yesterday, Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota signed into law legislation that SELC and our partners drafted and sponsored to exempt seed sharing from the state's seed law! Read our press release for more information. Thank you to all our supporters in Minnesota who called their legislators, wrote letters of support, and spread the word about the campaign. Of course, our national partner, Seed Savers Exchange, and the following state-wide partners in Minnesota deserve a big congratulations for shepherding this legislation, attending meetings, and organizing support!
- Do it Green! Minnesota
- Duluth Public Library
- Gardening Matters
- Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council
- Institute for a Sustainable Future
- St. Paul Ramsey County Food and Nutrition Council
- St. Paul West Side Seed Library
At SELC, we want to live in a world where people can share resources with each other to promote our collective wellbeing, economic resilience, and sustainability. From housing to transportation to energy, our goal is to promote shared use and stewardship over the long term. Of all the things that people might share with each other, seeds are one of the most basic and most important resources to which everyone should have open and equitable access.After all, seeds are the source of all the food, and much of the fiber and fuel, that we use and need to survive.
For over 10,000 years, we collectively recognized the importance of seeds, and shared them with each other in order to sustain our communities. Today, people continue that tradition of sharing in a variety of ways, including through seed lending libraries where members can "check out" seeds, grow food for themselves, and "return" seeds to the library at the end of the season to share with others.
So when we heard that seed libraries were being shut down by state regulators back in June, 2014, we decided to do something about it. We researched these seed laws being applied by state departments of agriculture and found that, in some cases, these laws are being misapplied, and in other cases, that seed laws need to be changed to protect seed libraries' rights to share locally grown and saved seed.
What is the Sustainable Economies Law Center doing to protect and promote seed libraries?
We've launched the Save Seed Sharing Campaign. Check out our vision and strategies here.
Our strategies include:
National Petition Campaign
In partnership with Shareable and Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library, and with the help of the Clif Bar Family Foundation and Seed Matters, we have launched a national petition campaign to build support for seed libraries and to tell regulators to protect our right to freely save and share seeds.
Community Organizing and Advocacy
SELC is working with groups in several states to raise public awareness of the importance of seed libraries as stewards of the seed commons and our right to share seeds with each other. In many states, seed laws are being applied in ways that restrict seed libraries from freely giving seed away that has been locally saved. We think that these laws need to change, and there are lots of people who agree with us and are willing to tell state regulators and legislators to do something about it.
If you want to get involved in advocacy efforts, we created a Seed Advocacy 101 page with tips and guidance on how to get started!
Providing Legal Support and Resources
As a result of the action taken by by several state departments of agriculture to restrict seed libraries from giving away and receiving locally grown and saved seed, a lot of people who are starting and running seed libraries across the country are unsure whether they are violating their state's seed law. The Sustainable Economies Law Center is researching, analyzing, and reporting on all 50 state seed laws to help seed libraries navigate the rules to protect them from being restricted, or even shut down. We are working to share what we learn in plain language legal guides and webinars for seed libraries.