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Seed Companies – Selecting them

Years ago I never gave much thought about where I purchased seed.  But that all changed when I learned more about Monsanto purchasing the big seed company Seminis.

In a previous post I explained in detail why the chemical companies are buying seed companies and why it’s a threat.  I also told more about hybrids and explained why they’re different than heirlooms and open pollinated varieties.

GE (genetically engineered) Seed for the Home Garden?

Fortunately — at this point in time – we as home gardeners don’t have to be  concerned about our seed being genetically engineered (also called GM or genetically modified).  Because Monsanto — for the time being is concentrating on selling GE seed for cash crops like corn, soy, and sugar beets to farmers.  Although they’re planning things for the home gardener — like controlling all the seed — currently we don’t have to worry, because right now there is no GE seed available for the home garden.

Lists of Companies Who Pledge Not to Carry GMO Seeds

The various lists you see on the internet of companies who have pledged not to carry GE (GMO) seeds is more to show their intent for the future and their commitment to non-GMO seed —– since there is no genetically engineered seed available to the home gardener at this time.

You don’t have to worry about accidentally buying genetically modified seed for your garden. You’d definitely know BECAUSE in order to buy their GE seed, you’d have to sign a contract with Monsanto saying you would not save any seed from those crops. (Keep in mind that saving seed has been a traditional practice that provided food security to farmers and gardeners for thousands of years — until Monsanto.)

What to be Concerned About

The main thing I’m concerned about right now is not supporting Monsanto in any fashion.

The case has been made by many that the little bit of money for seed an individual gardener spends won’t make a difference to Monsanto.  That might be true, but that’s not really the point. Monsanto’s goal is to control the world’s seed.  I plan to do my part in trying to prevent that.  That means not supporting Monsanto, but rather supporting independent seed companies.

Inconvenient?  Yes.  But it Can be Done!

Some of the greatest and most popular hybrid vegetables came out of the Seminis company. At the time Monsanto purchased them in 2005 they controlled 40% of the vegetable  seed market because their varieties were so popular. It definitely might be inconvenient to find replacements but with some effort it can be done.

Examples:

  • I order onion plants from Dixondale farms. For years I grew Candy onions. When I found out a couple of years ago that Candy was a  Seminis/Monsanto product, I e-mailed Dixondale and had them change my order to another variety. Inconvenient or not, I will NOT support Monsanto.
  • Big Beef tomato is a favorite that probably can never really be replaced so I took a different approach to find a substitute.  I had some Big Beef seed prior to finding out about Monsanto.  Last year I saved seed from one of those tomatoes that exemplified everything I wanted in a tomato.  Of course, I knew the offspring would not be Big Beef because hybrids don’t produce offspring like their hybrid parent. However, it did produce great plants and absolutely picture perfect AND delicious tomatoes!

I will continue to save the seed each year and will eventually end up with a customized variety that is perfectly suited for my garden situation — and my tomato needs as well.

Tomatoes from saved hybrid seed.

The possibilities for great plants are endless.  So, I’ll use this inconvenience to improve my gardening skills and my garden produce.

What you Need to Know about a Seed Company

If you don’t want to support Monsanto here’s what you need to know about the seed company you’re ordering from:

  • Do they grow and save their own seed?
  • If not, where does the seed come from? (In other words, do they buy from Seminis/Monsanto?)

For More Explanation 

I gave more detail and examples of how to go about finding out if a variety of vegetable is a Seminis/Monsanto exclusive in my post http://tendingmygarden.com/how-to-tell-if-the-origin-of-seed-is-seminismonsanto-clarification/. I think you’ll find reviewing  it helpful.

Also, please review the Addendum in that post for suggestions of how to glean more information out of the lists of Seminis/Monsanto varieties on their website. (links below)

Checking BOTH of these lists before you order can help you make sure you’re not ordering a Monsanto variety.

  • This page (http://us.seminis.com/products/products.asp) will say growers, dealers and distributors, but be sure to check it because they also have home-garden varieties listed there.
  • This page (http://www.seminis.com/global/us/products/Pages/Home-Gardeners.aspx) will say Home-Gardeners

NOTE: Over time I have found these lists do not include every Seminis/Monsanto product. To be 100% sure you are not buying a Monsanto product you have know whether or not your seed company buys from Monsanto and if so – what Monsanto products they offer.  Ask them if necessary.

Helpful Lists

  • If you’re buying from a Home Garden Dealer like Southern States rather than a seed company — you can go to this link that will list Dealers that carry Seminis/Monsanto brands.  (Southern States buys their seed from Seminis/Monsanto – so they’re on the list.)
  • The Council for Responsible Genetics has a list of companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge (no GMOs) for 2012.  As I have already explained  the pledge is more to show the intent for the future and the company’s commitment to non-GMO seed —– since there is no genetically engineered seed available to the home gardener at this time.

The CRG list may be helpful and certainly worth reviewing — but like the list I’ll give below — it’s not all inclusive. There are still some good companies not on it. For example: Diane’s Flower Seeds is not on that list and I know for a fact that Diane does not and will not buy seed from Monsanto.  You’d be hard pressed to find a more reliable person to put your trust in than Diane.

Some of My Favorite Seed Companies

To the best of my ability I try to support independent seed companies.  I look for companies who distance themselves from Monsanto.

The following are some of my personal favorites.  There are many more good independent companies that I have not listed. (You might want to review the Council for Responsible Genetics’ list for this very reason.)

Annie’s Heirloom Seed

Annie’s is a small company owned and operated by  husband and wife team, Scott and Julie Slezak.  After 10 years, Scott was finally able to quite his “day job” this past May to devote even more time to their “dream” business. This company has a lot to offer as I elaborated on in my post Vegetable seeds/ Flowers-seeds/Two-more-good-sources.  They carry heirloom’s as their name indicates and of course they do not support Monsanto in any way.

Diane’s Flower Seeds (she sells vegetables as well)

You’ll probably get some of the best seed and the best service you’ve ever had from this small seed company. It’s owned and operated by Diane Linsley with the help of her two daughters (and sometimes her husband 🙂 ). Diane raises much of the seed she sells. The balance she obtains  from reputable sources and does not buy from or support Monsanto. She also breeds beautiful daylilies.  Below is a picture of one of my favorites named Banana Cream Pie.

Banana Cream Pie – a daylily breed by Diane Linsley of Diane’s Flower Seeds.
Picture Copyright by Diane’s Daylilies.

High Mowing Organic Seed – All organic seed.  Free shipping – no minimum!

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com) – An especially beautiful catalog too.

Bountiful Gardens

Seeds of Change

Sustainable Seed Company

Fedco (An excellent company and I have ordered from them and would order more if not for the difficulty in navigating their website. Maybe I’m not computer literate enough.)

Johnny’s Seeds – Johnny’s does not buy seed from Monsanto — but are selling what remains of what they already had when Monsanto took over Seminis. It’s my understanding that amounts to about 4% or less of their conventional vegetable varieties. You can request a list of Monsanto products before you make your purchase.

I don’t buy from Johnny’s often because they carry so many hybrids rather than the heirlooms I’m more interested in.

Pinetree Garden Seeds (superseeds.com) – It’s my understanding that because of their good relationship with the people who worked at Seminis before it was sold to Monsanto — and remained there after Monsanto took over — Pinetree wanted to continue to buy some things from them.  (My opinion is — once they see the big picture — they will end that relationship.)

In the interim — if you choose to purchase from Pinetree because of their great prices and offerings  you can call or email requesting a list of Monsanto products before you order. They’ll send it to you via mail. (SEE July 23rd UPDATE AT THE END)

 Final Thoughts

If everyone took the approach that what they do doesn’t matter — we would surely be doomed.  That would give the bad guys free reign. But if everyone takes responsibility — and does what they can — no matter how small —-AND we all pull together — the story is much more likely to have a happy ending.

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UPDATE on Pintree Garden Seeds – July 23, 2012 — Pinetree did not order seed from Seminis/Monsanto this year, nor do they intend to in the future. The have chosen not to support Monsanto in any capacity. For more detail see my post on the update  – Pinetree Garden Seeds – Good News from a TMG Reader

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Recommended Posts for Additional Reading or Review:

Saving Seed – Why You’d Want to

Seed – The advantages – Diane’s Flower Seeds

GMO-GE-Food – What are they? Why They’re Dangerous. How you can Protect Yourself

Heirloom Vegetable Seeds – Flowers – Seeds – Two More Good Sources

Maria Rodale’s Open Letter to Obama

How to Tell if the Origin of Seed is Seminis/Monsanto – Clarification

Monsanto – Don’t Entrust Your Life to Them

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Organic Gardening is easy, effective and efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.

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All content including photos is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.

Photo of Banana Cream Pie Daylily is copyrighted by Diane’s Daylilies.  All Rights Reserved.

4 comments to Seed Companies – Selecting them

  • Sandra

    Dear Theresa, I am so glad I found TMG. This information is of utmost importance and so few people know. The ones that do know, are growing though. And you are definitely doing your part to educate us. I am learning so much from this site.
    And I agree, one packet of seeds NOT purchased from Monsanto might not mean much for them, but perhaps just as important, when we choose someone else, it encourages that company to keep on. It must be rather difficult as a small family business, to compete against such a giant as Monsanto and make a living. I admire them for sticking to their guns.

  • Theresa

    I’m so pleased that you are learning from the information I provide, Sandra.
    I too admire the small independents for sticking to their guns. People with strength of character who can hang in there might be one of our last hopes.
    I always find your comments so encouraging. Thanks Sandra.
    Theresa

  • Thank you for this post! Wonderful to see a list of recommended seed companies! I especially like your, “Final Thoughts.” AMEN!

  • Theresa

    Thank you for the confirmation, Bearfoot Mama!

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