Materials coming Spring 2019
but first, this to ponder, not plagiarize ——
Ethics represent respect and support of the following principles :
These are essentially the distillation of the concept that “actions should do the least amount of harm and the most amount of good.”
The following is taken from Department of Philosophy Prof. Theodore Gracyk’s page at Minnesota State University - link here
What does this mean for seeds? Biodiversity is an abstract concept; it’s a word used to describe something. So is seed. Actually, it can be both a noun and a verb. A seed--whether that of a troublesome weed or wholesome sustenance—is oftentimes culturally relative. We once ate chufa, and sold it as a seed crop. It’s now considered one of the most invasive weeds, also known as nutsedge, notoriously hard to get rid of because of that same seed that was once thought to be delicious.
It is easy to distill these complicated concepts and ideas into something very black and white. Open pollinated=good, hybrid=bad. The issue has as many thorny tentacles as those who function within the seed system, such as people who grow seed and develop varieties, farmers who then rely on that seed to feed people or alternately, people who depend on it to feed themselves.
We are losing varieties at an alarming and accelerated rate; we are sounding the sirens at the same time as many are just watching the building burn down. There are fewer gardens, and even fewer gardeners who save their seed; fewer commercial varieties farmers have to choose from and even fewer farmers who grow for seed.
Seeds are endangered, but so are the people who work with them. Biodiversity is a great concept but sadly, we all think someone else is doing it. If something so precious as seeds and the diversity encoded within them are not financially compensated, does that make them worthless?
How do we value everyone working within a broken system? How do we value that work and what does compensation look like?
How are small local seed savers who have gardens and work on an anonymous level given a voice and a place in the wider discussion of saving seeds for everyone?
What does it mean when you work with a university which expressly states that any work you do becomes their intellectual property? What does it mean for seeds? Do they own those seeds? Do they need to attribute the work to the author (i.e., breeder)?
Is the re-naming of varieties for the sake of commerce OK? What about in order to drive sales? Can a farmer or another seed saver take varieties that have an MTA (material transfer agreement), largely based on trust, begin to save the seeds and tinker with the selection and breeding because “no one will know”? How many varieties are re-named by accident or on purpose?
Where do the seeds you buy come from? The seed company? A local farm? A large corporation? From overseas where things can be produced cheaply? Are worded descriptions that the general public doesn’t understand fair? (Hell no!)
How do we compensate OP breeders who never get paid a royalty or paid at all for beloved varieties everyone knows and loves?
How do we keep the seed commons open for those varieties that are meant to be shared freely? Are all seeds meant to be shared freely? Is commercializing (or even saving) of indigenous varieties acceptable if they are sacred?
How do we keep a conversation going with respect to best practices for seeds within an entire community? Are seeds about an individual or about the individual within a wider collective? Metaphorically, how do we keep folks driving “in their own lane”, while embracing the fact that there are occasionally freeway accidents? How do we keep the food system honest if honest conversations don’t happen?
Where do non-profits get their money and what does that money go to?
These are just the beginning of very complex difficult questions surrounding the ethics of seeds that need to be discussed and unpacked over a long, long space of time.