New Law Supports Food Security and Resilience by Promoting Seed Sharing
Sacramento, California – September 12 – On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Seed Exchange Democracy Act, an amendment to the California Seed Law promoting food security, urban agriculture, and climate resilience by removing regulatory barriers to noncommercial seed sharing activities, including seed libraries. Introduced by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-10), AB 1810 exempts non-commercial seed sharing activities from industrial labeling, testing, and permitting requirements. The new law will increase access to healthy and nutritious food by fostering stronger local seed systems and encouraging seed saving.
The new law makes California the fourth state in the last two years to pass legislation protecting and promoting seed saving and sharing through community based initiatives, after seed libraries in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Nebraska faced regulatory barriers in 2014.
Leading the advocacy efforts for this bill was a class of 4th grade (now 5th graders) students at Olive Elementary School in Novato, CA. Students testified to the importance of seed saving and sharing and biodiversity at the Assembly and Senate Agriculture Committees. In addition, as part of its national Save Seed Sharing campaign, Oakland-based Sustainable Economies Law Center partnered with dozens of state and local organizations, including California Climate & Agriculture Network, California Guild, Center for Food Safety, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Occidental Arts & Ecology Center, Pesticide Action Network – North America, Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library, Seed Library of Los Angeles, Slow Food California, California FarmLink, Transition Palo Alto, the Ecology Center, and other organizations to advocate for changes to the state seed law that recognize the importance of locally adapted seeds and people’s rights to share seeds within their communities. The effort was also supported by urban agriculture organizations, seed libraries, and individual gardeners across the state.
The coalition applauds the author of this bill, Assemblymember Marc Levine and co-author Devon Mathis, for their leadership in gathering near unanimous support for a bill to promote healthy, more resilient, local food systems.
Neil Thapar, Food & Farm Attorney at Sustainable Economies Law Center noted that “the success of this legislation is due in large part to the collaborative efforts of all the individual and organizational advocates coming together. We share a common belief that a resilient food system starts with a resilient seed system based on locally adapted varieties that represent genetic diversity and a longstanding cultural heritage and tradition of seed saving and sharing.”
Now that the law clearly exempts noncommercial seed sharing activities, community-based seed sharing activities can continue to operate with the assurance that the law is on their side. Rebecca Newburn, co-founder of Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library is relieved, saying that “now the 60 or so seed libraries and hundreds more seed exchanges across the state can focus on saving and sharing of seeds knowing that they are not going to be shut down."
Additionally, David King of the Seed Library of Los Angeles remarked, "we feel tremendous relief knowing community seed sovereignty is now legally defined and protected. California seed savers can focus on appreciating our locally adapted seeds and continue to work together for community supported seed resources that benefit of all."
Seed sharing legislation has also been signed into law in Nebraska, Illinois, and Minnesota, as groups across the country are organizing to protect the right to share seeds. More information about these campaigns is at our website here.
Link to bill text on the State Legislature's website:
Media: download a press kit here.