When the 2023 G20 Summit convenes on September 9-10 in New Delhi, the leaders of the world’s major economies, comprising 19 countries and the European Union, will address the major global issues of our time.
The Government of India holds the G20 presidency for 2023, and has appointed Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) as the chair of an official G20 engagement group known as Civil20, or C20. As a platform for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), C20 will bring forth non-government and non-business voices and present specific policy recommendations to the world leaders gathering in New Delhi for this year’s G20 summit.
Since Amma’s appointment as C20 Chair, numerous C20 conferences have catalyzed new levels of collaboration and problem solving among civil organizations. It is within this significant global framework that the C20 Education & Digital Transformation Summit was held on May 20-21, 2023 in Trivandrum, Kerala. The event featured 66 speaker presentations by prominent leaders in this field—including one highlighting the work and vision of Amrita Virtual Academy (AVA).
AVA educator and program coordinator Chandrika Suliman began her presentation by sharing what makes Amrita Virtual Academy unique: that every course offering is rooted in spiritual values. As a result, AVA students experience growth well beyond the knowledge and skills acquired.
Chandrika then presented a case study demonstrating the power of such an approach. The case study highlighted a collaboration between AVA and Amrita University, initiated during the pandemic, when Amrita University professors observed that their Computer Science students had become disconnected from the natural world. The professors noticed campus littering was on the rise. And with students glued to their laptop and phone screens, social skills had also diminished. In hopes of reversing this trend, Chandrika was requested to give a 45-minute presentation on love for nature. Amazingly, just after the presentation 200 of the 400 attendees signed up to learn the principles of Regenerative Agriculture through an AVA Amritaculture curriculum.
Of those students who were accepted into the pilot program, 72% not only completed the course, but also wanted to continue learning and become youth leaders in the field of ecology and regenerative agriculture.
“People are longing to return to a harmonious relationship with nature,” Chandrika observed. “In this time of climate crisis, people are longing to move beyond the feelings of despair and hopelessness, and into an experience of connection and empowerment. As Amma encourages, ‘Light your little candle and step forward.’ This pilot course was a beautiful way to help people know how to do that.”
She continued, “What I learned from those 200 students, who were so eager to contribute back to nature, is that there’s still hope. There’s still hope, and we just need to be intelligent and loving and keep moving forward.”
By Amma’s grace, may the course offerings of Amrita Virtual Academy continue to ignite such optimism and determination within us all.
The skin is the largest organ of the human body, protecting us from the outside world and eliminating toxins from the body. We also absorb external substances through our skin. So what if the clothing we wear, which touches the skin all day, could help us feel healthy, well, and balanced? Can cloth carry medicinal properties? Did you know this is possible through the practice of Ayurvastra, an ancient spiritual science of dyeing textiles with medicinal herbs?
Ayurvastra is a Sanskrit term. “Ayur” means health and “vastra” means cloth, so the term translates to “healthy cloth.” This is a branch of Ayurveda (the science of life and longevity) stretching back 5,000 years.
Medicinal clothing as a means to protect and heal is a practice described in the Rigveda, a sacred Hindu text first composed in written form around 1,500 BC. Various Ayurvedic works state that even 100 years ago, many people in various parts of India were still practicing natural dyeing, repeatedly dipping their clothing in herb-based washes. In some parts of South India such as Kerala (where Amma’s ashram is), Ayurvedic, herbal-dyed cloths are still used to carry a newborn child. These special cloths have antibacterial qualities.
The creation of Ayurvastra clothing is precisely controlled. One hundred percent organic cotton is hand-loomed with no processing or additives. The fibers must be biodegradable and spun with no chemical finishes. To create subtle, yet beautiful colors, the all-natural cotton or yarn is bleached with a cow urine-based preparation which has great medicinal value. After the fabric is dried in direct sunlight, a gumming substance is applied, which contains extracts of plants such as aloe vera and camphor. The fabric is then cooked for several hours in “kashaya,” a concoction containing up to 60 medicinal herbs, plants, flowers, roots, barks and oils, all specifically selected for their wellness benefits. The fabric is left to dry for three days and then cured for 15 days, allowing the kashaya to settle into the fabric. It is then washed and dried in the shade and allowed to mature for another 15 days. The entire process is organic and environmentally friendly.
Traditionally, people used herbal-dyed cloths to boost immunity, and also to treat specific illnesses like arthritis, skin disorders, and diabetes. For diabetes, the herbal dye might include the “touch-me-not” flower, cumin seeds, champa flowers, and shoe flowers. An herbal dye for arthritis would be prepared with curry leaves; for skin diseases, turmeric, neem, and sandalwood would be combined to create the dye.
Ayurvastra differs significantly from modern textile dyeing — which is typically only for color, with no thought of medicinal value and no concern for the environmental damages created by the dyeing process. In fact, it is estimated that 20% of global clean water pollution comes from dyeing and finishing during textile production.
Ayurvastra differs from modern dyeing because in today’s age we dye for the color, but here in Ayurvastra they treat the garment for the wellness benefits, not so much to obtain a specific color.
By contrast, Ayurvastra not only benefits humanity, it is in every way honoring nature. This beautiful art form, embedded in the rich culture of India, is a practice of living harmoniously with the environment.
We hope you can join us in The Art of Natural Plant Dyeing course, offered with love from Amrita Virtual Academy. It was filmed from our special Saraswati garden in Amritapuri where we do natural plant dyeing year-round.
Have you ever wondered about how U-Pick farms work? Here’s a fun and informative Q & A with Anaswara, our expert U-Pick farmer who shares her years of expertise in U-pick farming.
On an organic U-Pick picking farm, participants pick their own produce. They learn how to recognize and harvest their own produce instead of receiving a CSA box each week. A picking farm is a form of Community Supported Agriculture. CSA’s usually deliver a box of food to families once a week. Many consumers in a regular CSA feel they get too much of some produce and not enough of others, and it’s sometimes wilted. With our organic picking farm, everyone harvests only what they want and need. The freshest produce is available at its nutritional peak. Pickers understand they pick only for their family and produce is for immediate consumption, not for canning, freezing, or drying. Our pickers have been very conscious and honest. If one cares about eating healthy food, perhaps one is more likely to be ethical and fair.
U-pick farming is the hope for the future for small farmers. On a picking farm, participants pay for a year in advance and then come to pick when it’s convenient for them. This gives the small farmer start-up money to buy seed and hire help to plant and tend the veggies.
All my farmer friends told me this wouldn’t work, and it has worked beautifully. People treat the crops with care. They so enjoy being in nature and picking their own food.
An organic picking farm can be done on a small scale as well. Even if your home’s backyard only has a few beds you could start with one or two friends as your pickers. Or, 3 friends could join and each grow a different crop in their small backyards to share with the other two friends. One could grow produce, the second herbs and berries, and the third fruit trees to share with one another. All sorts of growing and sharing combinations are possible. Pray and follow Amma’s guidance to grow your own organic food. Amma will guide you.
We advertise our picking farm with the flyer shown here. The families who come on our farm tours receive a flyer. Our friends also hand out flyers for us at the Farmers Market.
Turtle Barn Organic Farm has a big bulletin board on the farm at our pickers table. There is a layout chart of the farm beds. The beds are numbered on the chart and on a corresponding number on a tall stick in the bed. As crops mature and are ready to pick, I list the crop and its bed number. I write any harvesting information needed on our clipboard that pickers take with them when they pick. I also place a tall stake with the vegetable name and a long pink fluorescent ribbon on the markers where the crop is located. That way it is easy for families to find the vegetables when they are ripe.
I guide and go with new pickers until they are comfortable harvesting alone and am available if they need coaching by phone. Pickers fill out a Picking inventory sheet each time they pick. I use the Picking inventory as a guide to what and how much to plant each year. Pickers weigh produce and estimate herbs in handfuls.
Pickers pay me for the whole year in advance which comes out to about $9. a week for organic produce and herbs. Since most herbs are perennials, I often have extra volunteer herb plants they can adopt and take home to start their own herb gardens, especially the cilantro and mints.
No, Turtle Barn Farm has about an acre under cultivation. At this size, it is way too much for one person to keep up. So, how do I find farm crews and helpers for the farm? There are several avenues we have explored. We first started with friends.
When I began, Don, a 70-year-old man who lives in our garage apartment, and I did all the planting. I was in my 50’s and he was in his 70’s. Now I’m 76 and he’s in his 90’s. My husband had a full time environmental career, so on weekends, he took care of anything weighing over 40 pounds. Don and I took care of the rest. I quickly learned the importance of support and farm crews for the farm.
I’ve had apprentices who paid me to teach them. I’ve mentored many young adults who want to grow their own produce. They are eager to learn from someone who has had more experience.
A vocational training High School wanted students to learn organic farming. For many years they brought 15 students out to the farm for 2 hours each week to help create new beds. A lot can be accomplished with 30 hours of farm crew each week! They helped with planting and I taught them organic methods. We do only a little shallow tilling, so most of our digging is by hand, as is seeding and weeding. The students learned a lot and helped us a lot!
I feel we are helping youth learn some gardening skills that will be useful for them in the future and hopefully become our next farmers. Students are making connections with nature on our farm that don’t seem to be happening in their biology class. For example, Harrison, a bright senior in engineering, was amazed to learn that each flower on strawberry plants and apple trees had the potential to become a fruit. He was astonished that adding beehives to our farm increased our crop’s production by almost 50%.
We found many others in the community who wanted to engage in farming. We’ve hired farm crews at Universities, High schools, Junior high schools, Agricultural and Vocational training schools, youth in farm clubs like 4-H, scout groups, International Student organizations, our local Boys Home, churches, and the Hindu Temple. We even had UPS and Amazon Drivers as part of our farm crew!
I’ve had Amma friends stay with us from 1-6 weeks and help on the farm for their room and board. If you have room for someone to live with you, and are willing to provide their meals, there are international agriculture groups who will match you with someone who wants to learn what you have to teach for a few weeks or months. Betty, an Amma friend, has an herb farm and has used several different international agricultural groups for years. She’s had many successful apprentices work on her farm and visit us and work on our farm.
I like to schedule farm crews one day a week and prefer having 2 to 4 workers come for 3 to 4 hours at a time. After the farm crew finishes for the day, I give them a begging bowl and we each go beg and pick our lunch from the farm. Our farm crew lunches create community and allow for so many interesting conversations with people from so many ages and backgrounds.
After our final fall harvest, we celebrate with a campfire cookout and singing around the campfire. Amma tells us to make every day a celebration. We’ve created a mini global village with what Amma refers to as Unity in Diversity.
With a heart full of gratitude, I would like to share my journey into natural dyeing with you. I have been doing seva (selfless service) in the textile department in Amritapuri since 2012. Natural dyeing came to me and opened up a world of beauty and wonder. Growing our own plants helped me deepen my connection with the land and return to my ancient roots and a love for the earth. Rejoining with this cycle of life—from seeding, to tending, to harvesting, to dyeing, to stitching and finally, to wearing—reminds us how we once lived and can live again.
Dyeing with plants is an incredible art form. It’s a way to put forth our love and efforts to restore harmony back to the earth. We see that any small effort made to help to reduce the effects of pollution in the world today can go a long way. This is a devotional, creative approach to natural dyeing, with the hope of using it as a sadhana to deepen our bond to the divine.
Amrita Virtual Academy will be offering a series of classes on dyeing with medicinal plants from our garden, herbs, flowers and plants that we have grown here in Saraswati Garden, in Amma’s Ashram here in Amritapuri. We have been growing bamboo, tulsi, aloe vera, neem, turmeric, rudraksha leaves, henna, and we have other herbs and spices, nonni roots, flowers that give us natural color. We have kitchen scraps that you can also dye with that I will be teaching you, like onion peels.You will learn techniques for dyeing other garments in cotton and silk; and you can also explore your own creative ideas with natural dyeing. I’ll also be offering different techniques such as flower bundles, eco-printing, and the basics in block printing. This is a beautiful experience and I am looking forward to sharing it with you.
“Amma has encouraged everyone to preserve traditional and native seed varieties as a way to deepen our connection with nature and strengthen the diversity and stability of our food systems.” -Amritapuri.org
Good seeds are more valuable than gold. Even if we have all the gold in the world, we can’t eat it. Amma has been suggesting we grow vegetables for several years. Many people started small garden plots in their yards. One of the most important requirements for a garden is good seeds. Farmers and gardeners of the past saved and even bred their own seeds. Today good seeds are harder come to by. Understanding general seed terms and using discernment to obtain seeds helps us to find good seeds. Then, by saving and sharing seeds, we can help bring back seed saving traditions and preserve crop diversity. We can even help develop seeds that thrive in our changing climates!
Neighbors often traded seeds adding to the genetic diversity and strength of the plants.
A LIVING TRADITION
To begin understanding seeds, we need to understand a little bit about the history of seed preservation. The worldwide tradition of seed saving gave us the multitude of grains and vegetables we grow today. Historically, farmers selected seeds from the most vigorous and healthy plants for the next year’s crop. They carefully chose plants for desired traits like vitality, productivity, flavor, and disease resistance. Neighbors often traded seeds adding to the genic diversity and strength of the plants.
Over time the plants adjusted to local soil, pests, diseases and climate. If a new disease came or the weather pattern changed drastically, someone in the village likely had a variety that was unaffected. Repeated cross-pollination of the survivor with other strains added new features to the genes of these plants. Together plants and humans created a wide and varied gene pool – a shared insurance that some seeds would survive despite environmental threats.
OPEN POLLINATED SEEDS
Migrating peoples brought their most cherished seeds with them to their new homes. Centuries later many of these varieties still thrive. In this way, people all over the world selected and bred increasingly resilient open pollinated seed strains.
Open-pollinated seeds are naturally pollinated by insects, wind, birds, and animals passing pollen from plant to plant. These seeds are a treasure house of immensely varied genetic material – adopted and selected over generations for diverse needs in every growing condition. Open pollinated seeds are good seeds.
In our modern world of climate change and increasing pollution, seeds born of a time-tested gene pool may become the key to survival for future generations. Preserving this treasure house of adaptability should be a top global priority.
“Animals, plants, and trees all contribute to the harmony of nature. It is man’s duty to protect and preserve them.” Amma, PURITY (2007), Part 1, Amma’s Birthday Message 1993, Center for Training the Mind
THE LOSS OF ADAPTABLE SEED STRAINS
In recent times, there is an unprecedented loss of seed varieties. During the past 60 years many traditional country markets and local grocery stores have been replaced by supermarket chains. Crops are bred for storage and easy marketing rather than flavor, nutrition and resiliency. Many small seed companies were swallowed up by larger seed-breeding facilities. These larger facilities could afford the research and specialized equipment to develop new strains for these new demands. Many larger companies were taken over by multinationals whose primary interest was often manufacturing chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Now just four companies, dominated by Bayer (bought Monsanto), Corteva (a new firm created as a result of the Dow–DuPont merger) and rounded out with ChemChina and BASF control more than 60 percent of global proprietary seed sales. Strong and naturally resistant seed strains of the past are of little interest and even detrimental to the business of these companies.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that 75% of crop diversity was lost between 1900 and 2000. This is due to the diminishing use of traditional crops, massive consolidation of seed producers, and large-scale planting of genetically modified crops. It is estimated that 90% of agricultural varieties are no longer available. Farmers and home growers are left with a rapidly diminishing seed pool to draw from. For example, India had nearly 110,000 varieties of rice until 1970. Now only 6,000 – about 5% – of these rice varieties survive. This loss of our diverse genetic seed heritage endangers the world food supply and poses a great threat to the modern world.
To reset the balance on the behalf of seeds, we can gear our seed search towards preserving heirloom seeds. Heirloom seeds stand as pinnacles from the hard work of generations of farmers. These seeds are passed down for generations through families or communities unaltered for 50 to 100+ years. Heirloom seeds are open pollinated and hold their parent’s traits which is referred to as being true to type. They are priceless gems in the world of seeds.
“Take care of the seeds and they will take care of you.” -Rowan White, founder of Sierra Seeds
Hybrid seeds are commonly formed by natural or manual cross pollination of different varieties or species of plants. When these plants grow and bear their own seeds they are call hybrid seeds. If you save hybrid seeds, you can’t guarantee the seed traits will be replicated like an heirloom seed. Hybrid seeds are not stable – some seeds may be infertile; most will not produce seeds like the parent (true to type) but revert back to the grandparent seed qualities.
Over time, gardeners and farmers found certain plants to produce great hybrid offspring that have the best characteristics of both parents such as taste, insect, disease or drought resistance. They worked for years to develop stable seeds with these qualities. This is how heirloom seeds are born.
On the other hand, commercial hybrid and Genetically Modified (GM) seeds stand in stark contrast to traditional open-pollinated stable seeds. Corporations invested huge amounts of money in seed research and development of hybrid seeds. The first-generation seed often displays a strong growth known as hybrid vigor. But these Hybrid seeds cannot produce the same standard of plant again when re-sown. Most commercial seed producers find it easier just to produce a new crop of the first generation hybrid from the two parents every year rather than take the time to develop stable seeds. Additionally, many commercial hybrids have parents that are highly inbred which makes them very weak plants. They become easily diseased and attacked by insects. These hybrid seeds often depend on chemical fertilizers and pesticides to grow. Many commercial hybrid seeds are patented, making it illegal to save seeds without permission or payment to the seed producer. Unfortunately, it is often these commercial hybridized varieties that are available in garden shops around the world.
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Genetically modified seeds are GMO’s. They were introduced into agriculture in 1990’s. GMO’s are made by inserting genetic and other materials from one species or substance into the genetic material of another. This material is inserted into the plants in a way that could never occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. The genetic material is chosen for specific qualities from an animal, plant, bacteria, virus or chemical that yield desired results such as increased shelf life and improved harvests in the altered plants. It is important to note that in order to improve harvests, GMO crops are bred to withstand being sprayed by herbicides and pesticides. The chemicals sprayed onto the plants soak into the leaves, stems and seeds. Thus, these chemicals enter our bodies when we eat the vegetables from these plants.
Additionally, GMO seeds float in the wind threatening the purity of seeds everywhere through unwanted cross-pollination. When it comes to seed saving, this cross pollination becomes a big issue. GMO seeds are patented and often must be licensed for use; it is illegal to save seed for use the next season or even research their impact without corporate permission. Some GMO seeds yield plants that have sterile seeds; this could be a problem when they cross pollinate causing other plants to also have sterile seeds. Additionally, GMO seeds and their accompanying herbicides and pesticides have harmful impacts on soil health, beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies and other harmful impacts.
When you look at the issues seeds are up against it can seem overwhelming. But simple life affirming acts can make a huge difference!
Organic refers to a specific way plants and seeds are grown. To earn this label, they must be raised and processed in accordance with the USDA’s National Organic Program. Organic seeds are grown without chemical herbicides, pesticides or genetic alteration. GMO seeds are not organic seeds. Try to avoid buying conventional or hybrid seeds. Unless seeds are specifically labeled organic, there is a good chance that they may be have been chemically treated. We recommend purchasing organic, open pollinated, heirloom seeds whenever possible.
BE PART OF THE SOLUTION
When you look at the issues seeds are up against it can seem overwhelming. But simple life affirming acts can make a huge difference! Planting, saving and sharing seeds is easy and fun!
Home gardeners around the world have kept traditional vegetable varieties in cultivation. These backyard seed savers are the guardians of a huge store of genetic diversity. Their home saved varieties may have preserved the right genes for dealing with the challenges of our rapidly changing world – tolerance for drought and extreme weather, resistance to diseases, and more.
“Every seed we plant is a tiny loving prayer in action.” -Rowan White, founder of Sierra Seeds
You can become one of them! Buy one package of organic, open pollinated heirloom seeds and you are on the road. Just like that – you are now supporting people engaged in seed saving and seed diversity. Then plant the seeds, even in pots if you don’t have space. Suddenly you are caring for a living being and believe me, life begins to open up. Before you know it the bees, along with a host of other creatures show up. Maybe you’ll have too much lettuce so you share with a friend who has too many beets, so you trade. You grow some flowers and neighbors you never knew stop to talk. Even if you can’t save seeds, plants will do the job. Plants are brilliant at going to seed – many will seed themselves and grow again without your help. You’ll make new friends as you give away your abundant plants and seeds! As time goes on, you’ll wonder who grows more – me or the seeds?
Seed saving and sharing have always been and will always be a vital part of the cultural fiber of community. They are integral for any goal of local food sustainability. Seed saving is a necessity to secure our earth’s magnificent and precious biodiversity. Let us honor this vital responsibility. Plant a seed and begin to make an offering to the future generations of plants and humans in the world.
LET’S GET STARTED!
Winter and Spring
Do some research. Check your local co-op, garden stores, etc. for organic, open pollinated heirloom seed companies. These will have seeds most likely adapted to your climate and soil conditions. My hometown, Port Townsend, WA, now has about 3 small local organic heirloom seed companies! Talk to neighbors and friends who save seeds. Check out seed companies that sell organic, open pollinated heirloom seeds online (several are listed in the resource section). Get some good seeds.
Summer and Fall
If you have a garden, pick a few vegetables or flowers you want to save seeds from. Flowers are an easy way to start. Do a bit of online research and save a few seeds (seed saving info is listed in the resource section). Trade seeds with friends and neighbors. Attend a local seed exchange.
If you are ready to start your seed saving journey, Amritaculture is now offering a seed saving course! Join with fellow devotees and learn how to save seeds.
Thanks to Green Friend’s Lets Grow Seeds for lots of the info in this article.
Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener’s and Farmer’s Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving, 2nd ed. Deppe, Carol. (2000). Chelsea Green Publishing Thorough, readable book detailing all aspects of seed selection and breeding techniques for creating your own new varieties.
The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times. Deppe, Carol. (2010). Chelsea Green Publishing Great info for any gardener in uncertain times!
Lets Grow Seeds. Green Friends. (2014). Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust. A great starter guide to saving seeds, lots of pictures!
Braiding Sweetgrass, Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Kimmerer, Robin Wall. (2013). Milkweed Editions. Fantastic book weaving botany, ecology and indigenous wisdom in a world view grounded in reciprocity and gratitude.
Seed: The Untold Story Seed reveals the story of passionate seed keepers around the world as many irreplaceable seeds near extinction. Great interviews. Available to rent on Amazon.
Here are a few places, mostly on the USA West Coast to get heirloom seeds. These sights are inspiring and have great online resources for all things gardening including lots of seed saving info.
https://www.adaptiveseeds.com/ Pacific Northwest grown, open pollinated, organic seeds.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds http://www.rareseeds.com/ Baker Creek has probably the most beautiful seed catalogue around – one is free and the big one – The Whole Seed Catalogue – costs a bit and is filled with lots of fun info. They feature unique heirlooms.
Seed Savers Exchange http://www.seedsavers.org/ The largest public access seed bank in North America. Great seeds. Great resource. Does great work. Become a member!
Uprising Seeds https://uprisingorganics.com/ All seeds are certified organic, open pollinated and grown by small family farms in the Pacific Northwest.
Here are two free online sites with seed saving info. Most of the seed companies listed above and the Organic Seed Alliance also have seed saving info.
Organic Seed Alliance https://seedalliance.org/ A non-profit that advances ethical seed solutions through research, education, and advocacy programs. Doing great work with farmers and advocacy work. They host an incredible organic seed conference for growers. They have a free Seed Saving Guide for Gardeners and Farmers that you can download. They have some good articles as well: The Sobering Details Behind the Latest Seed Monopoly Civil Eats, January 11, 2019 Kristina Kiki Hubbard, Advocacy & Communication Director, Organic Seed Alliance https://civileats.com/2019/01/11/the-sobering-details-behind-the-latest-seed-monopoly-chart/
Farm Aid https://www.farmaid.org Farm Aid is a non-profit that supports small family farms with good info on farm, seed and food issues. Here’s a quick and easy article on GMOs. GMO’s – Top Five Concerns for Family Farmers https://www.farmaid.org/issues/gmos/gmos-top-5-concerns-for-family-farmers/
Rowan White is a seed keeper/farmer from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne and passionate advocate for indigenous seed and food sovereignty. She is the Educational Director and lead mentor of Sierra Seeds, an innovative land-based educational organization located in Nevada City, CA. She is the National Program Coordinator for the Indigenous Seed Keeper Network, an initiative of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, a non-profit leveraging resources to support tribal food sovereignty projects. She is also chair of the Board of Directors of Seed Savers Exchange. the largest public access seed bank in North America. Check her out at https://sierraseeds.org
GLOSSERY of SEED TERMS:
Conventional Seeds: seeds grown with herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. What is commonly sold in stores.
GMO Seeds: Genetically Modified Organism – seeds specifically modified by genetic engineering. Genes from an animal, plant, bacteria, or virus are placed in another species in a way that can’t occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. These seeds are mostly sold to large commercial farmers and are mostly for cash crops like cotton, corn, soybeans, canola, sugar beets. Some GMO fruits and vegetables including potatoes, summer squash, apples, and papayas are available. GMOs are in many foods we eat such as corn, corn syrup, corn oil, soybeans, canola oil, tomatoes, potatoes, apples, beets, rice, wheat is on the way and granulated sugar. Most GMO crops grown in the USA are used for animal food. The European Union (EU) outlawed most GMO foods but many EU farm animals are fed GMO feed from the USA.
Heirloom Seeds: Seeds passed down for generations through families or communities unaltered for 50 to 100+ years. Heirloom seeds are open pollinated and hold their parent’s traits (reproduce true to type). Heirlooms are not GMO seeds.
Hybrid Seeds: Hybrid seeds are commonly formed by the manual cross pollination of different varieties or species of plants. Hybrid seeds are not stable – some seeds may be infertile, and most will not produce seeds like the parent but will revert back to the grandparent seed qualities. Hybrid seeds also happen in nature all the time – if a bee travels from one type of tomato to another, the seeds from that plant will have traits from both the parents and be considered a “hybrid” of the two. If you save hybrid seeds, you can’t guarantee the seed traits like an heirloom seed.
Hybrid F1, F2, F3 seeds: F(X) seeds correspond to the generation of the seed – in other words, F1=kids, F2=grandkids, F3=great-grandkids. The more generations, the less the seed genetics will drift or revert making it more likely you’ll have similar plants in the next generation. Over time, with careful selection of seeds, the seeds become stable. Eventually it can be considered an heirloom seed.
Non-GMO: A non-genetically modified organism; genetic modifications were not a part of the plant breeding process.
Open-pollinated Seeds: Seeds naturally pollinated by insects, wind, birds, and animals passing pollen from plant to plant. All heirlooms are open-pollinated plants, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirlooms. Both hybrid and heirloom seeds can reproduce through open pollination. Open pollinated seeds are not GMO seeds.
Organic: Organic refers to a specific way plants and seeds are grown. To earn this label, they must be raised and processed in accordance with the USDA’s National Organic Program. Organic seeds are grown with a focus on soil and plant health, with natural fertilizers and pest control. Organic seeds are not GMO’s.
Treated or Pelleted seeds – Come coated and are often brightly dyed to indicate their treatment. Some are treated with herbicide or pesticide to help prevent fungus and insect damage. Some coated seeds are safe to use. These are usually small seeds to make them more easily to handle and may help with germination. Make sure you read the labels on treated seeds if you are avoiding chemicals in your garden.
True to type: Stable seeds produce offspring with characteristics that are similar to their parents’. We call stable seeds true to type because their offspring have the same characteristics as their parents.