Each year the arrival of spring brings with it an increased interest in gardening and “growing things”– whether it is flowers, vegetables or fruits, and this presents a great opportunity to discuss seed conservation and its role in sustaining life. A seed is defined in several ways, including (1) the grains or ripened ovules of plants used for sowing; (2)a propagative animal structure (milt, semen), and (3) a source of development or growth.  Any discussion of a seed generally acknowledges its connection to a germ, origin, root or creation. The conclusion here is that life as we know it is not sustainable without seeds.
Despite the reality that seeds are the root of life, statistics by the USDA indicate that over the past 30 years, industrial agriculture practices have resulted in a huge loss of biodiversity and the extinction of over 80,000 plant varieties. The reason for this is that industrial agriculture relies on large homogenous crop production, with the primary crops being corn, soy, wheat or potatoes. Under this scenario, mass production of single crops affords farmers easier cultivation and harvest, and is deemed to culminate in a guaranteed food source for a greater percentage of the world population.
The truth is that industrial agriculture takes a heavy toll on the world’s plant supply. First of all, the industrial agriculture movement has resulted in the creation of seed monopolies, with a few companies owning patents to the majority of seeds available to farmers, including GMOs and hybrids. The farmers are prohibited from reusing new seeds from the previous year’s crop production because of patent violations. Secondly, from a botanical standpoint, crop homogenization strips the ability of plants to adapt to climate change, pests and diseases. Thirdly, the presumption that large homogenous crops will provide an adequate food supply for the world is erroneous because food availability does not necessarily translate to access to food. Finally, we must not ignore the potential danger of the reliance on a single or a few large crops to feed a population. We only need to look to the well documented devastating famine to the Irish population during the potato blight in the mid-1800s to observe the results of such misconceptions.
The good news on seed conservation is that many individuals and businesses globally are dedicated to the protection of the world’s seed supply from extinction and from the control of corporate monopolies. Many of these efforts stem from smallholder farms and peasant bred food growers. Interestingly, the majority of these farmers are women, who understand that the story of seeds is “the story of us”. Their work involves not only the cataloguing and use of a variety of seeds, but also records of recipes for delicious meals from their bounty.
It is important that proponents of the green movement recognize the urgent need to support seed conservation and biodiversity. To that end, we urge you to support independent seed companies when you make your seed purchases. Also, consider donating to programs that support smallholder farms. Educate yourself on the large corporate monopolies, who are buying up many of the seed companies and inhibiting biodiversity. The fact is that “farmers will stop growing food that we refuse to eat”. 
In conclusion, seeds are the major thread in the fabric of our lives. They are a food source, as well as key players in the manufacturing industry and environmental protection. To fight for seeds is to fight for sustainability. To do this is to live green, be green.
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