Michel & Jude
Fanton in their garden, Byron Bay, 2009
Image: © Mark Lang
times all gardeners and farmers were the stewards of the plant heritage
that sustained us. Over the centuries it was seed saving that enabled
people to domesticate wild plants, and this allowed communities to settle.
The way food is mass-produced and distributed today dictates plant breeding
and seed production worldwide. It stands to reason that, when plants
are engineered for specific commercial features, other valuable characteristics
are inevitably lost. Tomatoes harvested by machine, dumped onto conveyor
belts and hauled long distances by truck, need to be very tough indeed,
but not necessarily tasty or nutritious!
We can help ourselves to become independent again by saving seeds and
passing on knowledge about propagation and plant usage. By regaining
control of our food, we strengthen our own security, the genetic integrity
of our traditional crops and the potential to develop useful varieties
that are adapted to the climate, the soil of the region and local pests.
The Seed Savers’ Network was founded in 1986 to preserve the diversity
of our plant heritage. Since then we have worked in thirty-three countries
on seed saving and food biodiversity projects.
In the spirit of ‘small is beautiful’ and encouraging local
adaptations of cultivated plants, Seed Savers has devolved to Local
There are now more than eighty around Australia. Several groups overseas
are also lining up to be associated with us.
Seed Savers have also published a manual for teachers and parents. It
covers how to install food gardens in schools and has practical suggestions
for activities and websites listed for further research.
In September 2008 Seed Savers released “Our Seeds: Seeds Blong
Yumi”, a documentary film that celebrates traditional food plants
and the people that grow them. With footage from 11 countries, “Our
Seeds” addresses the problems of globalised food based on hybrids
that require pesticides and synthetic fertilisers and shows how individuals
and small groups have solved these problems. The film is a David and
Goliath story where resilience and persuasive logic triumph over the
seemingly invincible forces that control much of our food.
Seeds, especially of food and other useful plants, should be taken care
of by the people. They are too precious for all of them to be placed
under the exclusive control of the few. The more hands that hold them,
the safer they will be.
and Jude Fanton, Seed Savers Network, Byron Bay