The California Seed Exchange Democracy Act will be up for a vote in the State Senate Agriculture Committee on June 21. We need your help to pass this bill to legalize seed sharing!Read more
April’s always an exciting time for me! The legislative session is in full gear, which means that I’m engaging with partners and legislators and speaking up for policies to support stronger local food and agricultural economies. Earth Day is right around the corner and the spring rain reminds me that the seeds I’ve planted are ready to sprout.
Speaking of seeds, we recently had a hearing for our bill to protect seed sharing, the California Seed Exchange Democracy Act (AB 1810). It passed out of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, in part due to the work of these excellent advocates and official sponsors of the bill!Read more
In 2016, as part of our Save Seed Sharing campaign, Sustainable Economies Law Center worked with partners across California to pass AB 1810, the California Seed Exchange Democracy Act, which protects seed libraries and exchanges from legal barriers imposed by the state seed law. California became the fourth state, behind Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois, to pass legislation recognizing the rights of farmers and gardeners who save seeds and share them within their community. We couldn't have done it without the help, advice, and commitment from a host of partners and collaborators within the broader food and agriculture advocacy community. THANK YOU!
Do you live in a state without the Seed Exchange Democracy Act? Do you want to advocate for seed democracy? We've created a toolkit of resources to help you do just that, including sample legislation, local resolutions, letters of support, and more! As part of our commitment to transformative grassroots policymaking, we've set out to create replicable models for state-level policy change that can be used by community-based advocates around the country. Click below to download the toolkit!
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After our month-long #PeoplePoweredEconomies campaign, the results are in: you rock! We continue to be motivated by a sense of both urgency and opportunity to create people powered economies everywhere, and YOU give us the inspiration and support we need to make that happen. This is what a People Powered SELC looks like:
- Over 150 donors during the month of May
- 50 new Community Members
- Over $20,000 pledged
- Hundreds of dollars raised for our allies Richmond Grows Seed Library (Richmond, CA), Cooperation Jackson (Jackson, MS), and Phat Beets Produce (Oakland, CA)
- Oh yeah, and this…
In the 8 months since we launched the Save Seed Sharing campaign, we've made incredible progress in protecting people's rights to share seeds! Will you support us in continuing to cultivate this work and People Powered Economies?!Read more
February 11, 2015
It’s easy to take seeds for granted. Tiny dry pods hidden in packets and sacks, they make a brief appearance as gardeners and farmers collect them for future planting then later drop them into soil. They are not “what’s for dinner,” yet without them there would be no dinner. Seeds are the forgotten heroes of food—and of life itself.
Sharing these wellsprings of sustenance may sound innocuous enough, yet this increasingly popular exchange—and wider seed access—is up against a host of legal and economic obstacles. The players in this surreal saga, wherein the mere sharing of seeds is under attack, range from agriculture officials interpreting seed laws, to powerful corporations expanding their proprietary and market control.
Seeds are at the foundation of human and animal existence on this planet. Since the dawn of agriculture, over 10,000 years ago, human have domesticated, bred, and selected plant varieties that provide us with nourishment. Indeed, saving and sharing seeds is one of the few unbroken traditions we share with our ancestors.
In the last century, however, the tradition of sharing seeds has been largely replaced as the dominant form of exchange by the buying and selling of seeds in the marketplace. As a result, in 2016, three companies control more than 50% of the commercial seed market. The consolidation of the seed industry has also led to a sharp loss in seed diversity around the globe. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that we have lost 75% of the world’s plant genetic biodiversity in the last century and that currently, nearly 75% of our food comes from just twelve plant varieties and five animal species. Studies show that seed genetic diversity is a key element of ensuring that our agricultural systems are resilient in the face of a number of social, political, and environmental threats.
In recent years, communities across the country have found a new home for continuing the age old tradition of seed saving and sharing - seed libraries and exchanges. Over 450 seed libraries, and countless more seed exchanges, exist in the United States, with many more in countries around the world. Seed libraries and exchanges offer people free access to seeds and promote genetic diversity and local adaptation to increase the resilience of the local food system.
So when we heard that seed libraries and exchanges were threatened with shut downs 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. We launched the Save Seed Sharing campaign to promote people's rights to save and share seeds and to protect our seed commons.
September 9, 2016 - California Governor signs into law CA Seed Exchange Democracy Act, exempting noncommercial seed sharing from testing and labeling requirements in the state seed law.
August 16, 2016 - Illinois passes amendment to state seed law to exempt seed libraries from state seed law requirements.
July 17, 2016 - At the 35th annual Seed Savers Exchange Conference & Campout, the steering committee of the International Seed Library Association reach an agreement with Seed Savers Exchange and USC-Canada to create the Community Seed Network as a joint project to support the national seed library community.
July 14, 2016 - AASCO votes to adopt an amendment, initially introduced by the Law Center and negotiated with several stakeholders, to the Recommended Uniform State Seed Law that creates exemption from testing, permitting, and most labeling requirements, creating replicable language that state legislatures can draw from when updating state seed laws. Read the text of the amendment here.
July 15, 2015 - The Law Center staff attend national gathering of American Association of State Seed Control Officials (AASCO) to advocate for changes to model legislation that creates exemption from testing, permitting, and labeling requirements for noncommercial seed sharing initiatives. The amendment is not accepted, but a working group is created to develop amended language including representatives from AASCO, SELC, seed libraries, and seed companies.
May 27, 2015 - Nebraska Governor signs into law legislation that exempts seed libraries from state seed law.
May 19, 2015 - Minnesota becomes the first state to pass a law amending the state seed law to exempt noncommercial seed sharing from testing, labeling, and permitting requirements, based on language developed by Sustainable Economies Law Center.
May 3-6, 2015 - First-ever International Seed Library Forum is held in Tucson, Arizona, hosted by the Pima County Public Library to bring together over 100 seed advocates to discuss the state of the seed library movement, state seed laws, and develop strategies for growing the national and international network of community-based seed sharing. The participants unanimously adopt a Joint Resolution in Support of Seed Libraries. The Law Center begins advising steering committee on creation of a backbone organization to support seed libraries, tentatively called the International Seed Library Association.
November 11, 2014 - With support from the Clif Bar Family Foundation, the Law Center launches the Save Seed Sharing campaign with national online petition to spread awareness and build support for legal protections for seed libraries and other community-based seed sharing initiatives. The petition eventually receives over 20,000 signatures.
August 11, 2014 - The Law Center co-publishes article with Shareable and Center for a New American Dream outlining the need to change state seed laws to protect community-based seed sharing activities. The Law Center also launches the Seed Law Tool Shed, a publicly accessible, crowdsourced database of state seed laws and analysis.
June 12, 2014 - Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture sends letter to Simpson Library in Mechanicsburg, informing the library staff that their plans to open a seed library violate the state seed law.
By: Dan Kraker, Minnesota Public Radio
(Originally published November 30, 2014)
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has given a thumbs down to a Duluth seed-sharing program that allows members to borrow vegetable seeds from the library in the spring and later return seeds they collect from their gardens.
State agriculture regulators say the exchange — one of about 300 in the United States — violates the state's seed law because it does not test seeds.
By: Cat Johnson
September 8, 2014
In June, officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture alerted the Joseph T. Simpson Public Library in Mechanicsburg that their seed library was in violation of the Pennsylvania Seed Act of 2004. According to officials, the library would have to follow the prohibitively expensive procedures of large-scale commercial seed companies or only offer commercial seed. The first option is impractical and the second option would gut the exchange of its primary purpose to serve home gardeners who want to save and exchange their own seed.
The Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) reported in a recent article on Shareable.net that the Pennsylvania law may only apply to commercial seed operations. Despite what may be an incorrect interpretation of the law, other states are now considering adopting Pennsylvania's seed library protocol. This could kill a fast growing U.S. seed library movement.Read more