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A Manifesto for Seeds

By woodyw in Culture
Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 05:59:58 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

We are seed users, seed eaters, seed growers...all of us. We have been wrapped in a world of seeds for eons, since long before agriculture. In hunger we ate the bird that ate the seeds; in happy accident we brewed the beer from spoiled and worthless seeds; in unwitting service to the plant we transported its seeds on our trouser cuffs. We slobber over ear corn and eat our Wheaties.

It's in our language: We are of our parents' seed, our ancestors' seed, Adam's seed ultimately. We are born into, thrive in, die in, a seed sowing, seed garnering heritage. To deny the status of the sacred to these time capsules, these enfoldments of life we call seeds is to court foolish disaster. We have always known this.

But...now they're messing with our seeds. The power grabbing corporations and governments propose in their arrogance and disrespect to irradiate...manipulate... defructify...monopolize and further commodify our ancient birthright, our real wealth: SEEDS. We are strong when we have our seeds, and they know this. They would enslave us and they would use as leverage the seeds we cherish, the seeds that nourish us. What we would pass on to the seventh generation as bridegift they seize as strategy. They would put a price on the priceless and sell it back to us.

Leave our seeds alone. Leave our seeds in the hands of the people who feed us...the family, the clan, the village group. The profession of "seedsman" was created only 130 years or so ago. Perhaps it was an aberration to try to centralize, and then commodify, a process that had before been disbursed in village gardens, homestead gardens, middens and small fields. Grandmothers and Great-uncles collected, watched over, cherished the seeds that came down to them. Grew them out with love and patience and infinite care. Grandmother's seeds... grandmother's blessing...passed from generation to generation. Ancestors' blessing. Reckon three generations to a century and 150 centuries in the history of agriculture and you have several hundred generations of seed gathering folk, seed saving grandcestors, passing on precious seeds to descendants. Seeds too precious to buy and sell; seeds that must be gifted, presented. There is memory encapsulated in this line of life stretching so far back. Feelings are there too...feelings of gratitude to Gaia, of holding dear, of well wishing to the future generations, feelings of faithfulness...feminine feelings.

The memory is right there in the seed, in our cells, in the mitochondrial DNA passed down the feminine line. When I touch my seeds I tap the memory that is there, instinctive wisdom almost lost, beaming itself into our consciousness just when it is most needed.

John Trudell said: " It's about our D and A. Descendants and ancestors. We are the descendants and we are the ancestors. D and A, our DNA, our blood, our flesh and our bone, is made up of the metals and the minerals and the liquids of the earth. We are the earth. We truly, literally and figuratively are the earth. Any relationship we will ever have in this world to real power-the real power, not energy systems and other artificial means of authority-but any relationship we will ever have to real power is our relationship to the earth."1

Seeds are concentrated wealth. Seeds are worth far more than we pay for them now, in this aberrant commodity trade. You can pack in a suitcase $10,000 worth of garden seeds in any variety you choose. The slavemasters and their propagandists would have us believe that money is power and, since they have money in plenty, that they are in control. They don't want us to have that suitcase, to be free to leave and plant elsewhere; free to stay and plant many gardens, feed many people with real food.

If we are staunchly of the Earth, her power is ours to neutralize and transmute the evil work of the authority-mongers, those without conscience. We can do this with life enhancing actions. Repeat. Life-affirming actions override, overwhelm, the lifeless. Always the great stone temples of the arrogant become topsoil for living systems. It's something the corporations and governments fail to appreciate. Their authority rests on entropic processes, explosions, coercions, cultural lies. They cannot take into account the power of life, the connectedness of life. They would have us forget where we come from...so we can be entertained and exploited and addicted to their cheap dream, their gadgets and their ersatz food. If we are staunchly of the Earth we have access to the strength of the generations, the ancestory, to help us put life and affirmation in the places where death-dealing had been. We can REMEMBER from where our power comes. Let us plant gardens. Let us plant trees. Let us tend cows.

Let us join Wendell Berry's "Mad Farmers Liberation Front." No dues. No meetings. You just have to be clever. Don't be depressed, be clever.

Our weapons are our tools...
our ammunition is our seeds...
our fuel is our sacred intent to do right by the future of life on the Planet...
our marching song is the thrumming of memory in our cells.

We march in concert, but we do not march en masse. Our aim is not to dominate or overpower. There has been enough domination and power grubbing. Rather, our aim is service. Each of us has a plot of earth to serve, our own elementals and devas to consult...intuition that speaks in us. We know how to surrender to the task, to the plants and soil, in order to earn our harvest. We bend to it in joy and service, each individual one of us mustering pure intent, a gutsy laugh, with the power of life upholding us.

Let us be clear. There is no money in this, only sustenance. This passing forward of seed on the family or clan level is a matter of right livelihood, not of commerce.

And right livelihood brings joy. If I can feed myself, my family, a few others perhaps when surplus appears, then I have done something REAL. Something subversive. I am in touch with my power, and my delight.

JOY...What if the picture that's been drawn of medieval peasant life as basically "Nasty...Brutish...Short" is a cultural con job put out by the rationalists and the materialists, the ones who shortly would have something to sell us? What if life on a subsistence level has joys and satisfactions outweighing the challenges? What if people used to have time to laugh and sing? What if there were still people in the world who could catch the memory of this and show it to us??

A friend tells me about life in the Philippines, far back on the rural islands...tells how, when two rice farmers or donkey drivers meet and begin to talk, they're laughing most of the way through the conversation. "They laugh and say a couple words and laugh some more. One starts laughing and then everybody's laughing." There is something boisterously entertaining about what is going on in their poverty-stricken lives.

John G. Bennett wrote of an encounter in Africa: "Following a lightly trodden path, I came upon a Basuto village. All the inhabitants were out hoeing mealies. Their ages must have ranged from seven to seventy, and they were singing and hoeing to the rhythm of their own music. As they saw me they all stopped and stood straight up in surprise. Then with one accord they began to laugh. I have never heard such laughter. It was pure joy and friendship, without malice and without thought. I joined in, and we all laughed together for several minutes. I waved my hand and walked on, and they resumed their gravity and their hoeing.

"This was one of the unforgettable moments of my life. A lifetime's experience had convinced me that happiness is greatest where material prosperity is least. I had seldom seen a happy rich man, but I had seen many happy people among the poorest villagers of Asia Minor or Greece. I had seen happiness in Omdurman, but this happiness that I saw before my eyes was beyond all the others. Here was a village totally lacking even the smallest of the benefits of civilization. They had not even a plough or a cart. And yet they were the happiest people I had ever seen. They were without fear and without pride."2

The meek inherit the Earth, for the meek remember who they are and where their power comes from. The meek overcome oppression by serving the Earth.

1 John Trudell, on the occasion of a memorial service for Earth First! Activist Judy Bari.

2 J G Bennett, _Witness_ Claymont Communications, 1983, pg. 229.


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A Manifesto for Seeds | 26 comments (18 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
Why stop at crop seeds? (3.25 / 8) (#5)
by Anatta on Sun Aug 05, 2001 at 04:56:43 PM EST

I mean, selling crop seeds is a relatively new concept... it seems to me the real crime is selling the seeds of shelter.

How dare the Faceless International Corporations take a naturally occurring product (trees) and by modifying the trees, create lumber, which they sell to the foolish, unsuspecting populace? They're selling this lumber when people could just as easily use trees! And this lumber can't reproduce like trees can! Some companies probably even have a patent on their specific lumbermaking process. My great great great great great grandfather used to use trees to build his shelter, and I know he was happy. I swear. I read in his journal that one day, as he was chopping trees in the brutal cold hoping to finish his meager shelter before he froze to death, his wife told him a joke, and he laughed! See! Proof that he was happy. I say it's time for the government to intervene and declare trees to have the Right to be Free from Corporate Control!

Ok, obviously my analogy isn't 100% accurate, but it's close enough. No one is forcing people to buy these seeds, and I don't exactly think farmers are duped into paying a whole lot more for these GM seeds compared to non-GM seeds. Face it, the farmers want these seeds, because they make crop growing a lot cheaper and easier.

Novartis and ADM won't kill off non-GM crops, especially with their diabolical plan to not let GM crops reproduce (which, if I understand correctly, is something the Greens wanted). For 8,000 years, farmers have used the practice of taking the seeds of their best crops and replanting them. Now they have a better way, and are willing to pay for it. For those who don't, there will always be a market for non-GM seeds.

Get over it.

(note, if this article was satire, ignore my comment... I'm still not 100% sure)
My Music

It's not so simple (4.75 / 4) (#16)
by anewc2 on Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 03:47:25 PM EST

I don't exactly think farmers are duped into paying a whole lot more for these GM seeds compared to non-GM seeds.
Not all costs are monetary. Remember that GM seeds are patented, and when you buy them, you are agreeing that the next generation of seeds that they produce do not belong to you. You have to buy them all over again next year. You can't save the best to replant and improve your crop using those old-fashioned genetic techniques.

You are buying seeds, but selling your control over your business. And yes, I think many farmers do not understand this and are thus being duped into paying a whole lot more for GM seeds, even if the monetary cost does not make it clear.

Someone did once tell me to get a life, but due to a typo, I got a file instead.
[ Parent ]

I agree. Also... (3.33 / 3) (#18)
by flimflam on Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 05:35:45 PM EST

Not all costs are borne by the farmer. There are costs to society and to us as a species that are not reflected in the price of the seeds. For instance, what about a blight that wipes out a particularly widespread strain of, say, corn. Because GM crops are a monoculture, the damage resulting from this kind of event would be much more widespread.

-- I am always optimistic, but frankly there is no hope. --Hosni Mubarek
[ Parent ]
+ other species (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by antares on Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 10:44:49 PM EST

not all costs are borne by humanity, either. the destabilizing effects of invasive exotic lifeforms on local ecologies is well documented. transgenic lifeforms have produced the same effects; eg migration of bio-engineered toxicity from crops designed to be insect resistant. continued genetic pollution adds to the cumulative insult human activity is presenting to the world's ecosystems.

[ Parent ]
Sometimes you are not allowed to sell seeds (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by nefertari on Tue Aug 07, 2001 at 07:37:36 AM EST

This is an old (~5 years i think) example. In a german tv-magazine (i think it was monitor) there was a report of a farmer in Bavaria who owned wheat-seeds, that could be grown in the relative high regions of Bavaria. But he was not allowed to sell it, because, if he wanted to, he had to register it, but that was too expensive for him (at least 50 000 DM). I don't know the end of the story, and i couldn't find it in their archive, because it contains currently only the years 1998-2001.

[ Parent ]
Monsanto vs. Percy Schmeiser (4.75 / 4) (#22)
by dennis on Tue Aug 07, 2001 at 11:01:25 AM EST

No one is forcing people to buy these seeds

Perhaps you haven't heard of the recent court case in Canada, in which Monsanto sued a farmer for growing Monsanto's GM crops without a license. The farmer claimed he had no intention to grow them, and the seeds must have blown off a truck. (His neighbors grow them.) Monsanto never proved different. The GM seeds were modified to withstand Roundup, which the farmer never used.

The farmer lost.

[ Parent ]

The seeds which make us laugh... (4.85 / 7) (#8)
by mami on Sun Aug 05, 2001 at 08:46:34 PM EST

John G. Bennett wrote of an encounter in Africa: "Following a lightly trodden path, I came upon a Basuto village. All the inhabitants were out hoeing mealies. Their ages must have ranged from seven to seventy, and they were singing and hoeing to the rhythm of their own music. As they saw me they all stopped and stood straight up in surprise. Then with one accord they began to laugh. I have never heard such laughter. It was pure joy and friendship, without malice and without thought. I joined in, and we all laughed together for several minutes. I waved my hand and walked on, and they resumed their gravity and their hoeing.

This story awakes some memories. I was always fascinated about the beauty of the songs I heard at a location similar to that Basuto village. I even took the pain to learn their texts without understanding a word (of that specific dialect). One particular song I loved so much, I still sing it today.

One day, some twenty years later, I was just humming along in my U.S. kitchen to prepare some spicy crabs and my husband's niece (understanding above mentioned dialect) all of the sudden broke out in some unimaginably happy, jolly laughter.

Her laughter was so contageous that I helplessly and uncontrollably started to join her, not knowing about what I was laughing other than the fact that we were engaged in profoundly deliberating laughter. It was a very hot August afternnoon, the kitchen was sticky all over, the crabs smelled beautifully and nothing on earth could have been better in the expectation of sucking out that juicy, spicy crab meat from the claws swimming in my favourite red hot pepper tomato sauce recipe. It was one of those rare moments in life, which stick to your mind, because they are so unbelievable simple but cristal perfect.

Finally we calmed down in exhaustion. Shaking my head about our foolishness, I came about to ask: "Why did you start to laugh that much, what was it ?" "Auntie", she said, "do you know what you were singing about ?" "Sure", and I followed up telling her how, when and where I learned that song and that I just loved it so much that I even sang it to my son to calm him down when he was a baby.

Before I could end my narrative explanations, her body creased up with another bout of laughter. I watched in amused horror fearing the power of another unstoppable craving for shrieking giggles. I looked at her, and slowly, trying to silence herself in hiding her face behind her hands, as if she were too embarrassed to speak, she whisperingly "enlightened me" about the message of my favourite cradle-song.

Well, what can I say, it's rated material not suitable for K5 youngsters. :-)

Anyhow, the morale is to never think you know why someone is laughing happily, when you are in foreign territories among happy looking faces. Contrary to what Bennett said, I think there is MUCH thought behind that joy and laughter he experienced.

Other than that, I am all for it. Power to the seeds, expecially mine. :-) Though I don't know if I vote the story up, because or despite it made me laugh, it surely reminded me how much strength there is in our seeds that make us laugh.

i see paragraphs (1.33 / 3) (#9)
by la princesa on Sun Aug 05, 2001 at 10:03:44 PM EST

and it's so darn weird and interesting, what the hey. +1 FP.

However...Fables of Ants & Grasshoppers (4.33 / 6) (#10)
by turtleshadow on Sun Aug 05, 2001 at 10:54:30 PM EST

I am all for the liberation of subsistance farmers everywhere and a vocal detractor of corporate farming in general.

Indeed the general 1st world public cares less of where their daily bread comes from than perhaps the ham and turkey they stick inbetween the slices.

This brings up the fable of the grasshoppers and the ants. You know the one, where Grasshoppers ate till they were rolling out the door and the ants stuffed abit away for winter. Of course we all know what happened when winter came.

There are numerouse seed banks worldwide. There are also highly specialized labs for the storage of seed just in case a blight, insect plague, nuke war or something happens. I think the U.S. is perhaps a bit farther along in the modern commodity of seeds than other nations.

Unfortunately now simple planning has been overwhelmed by corp profit and seed for the last 80+ years has been tweaked and tuned. Mother Nature has been roder harder and faster than a Silicon Valley Athlon to produce more yields to the point most crops can't procreate on their own. The loss of native species and the associated genetic diversity is rather astounding. When you hear people talk about 100+ species dying off every x period of time there's a lot of botanical life in that sum. Most botanical energy is now focused on the crop not leaving much for the next generation, some varieties are now incapabile of cross pollenization without human assitance. It's self defeating biology.

The argument for seedbanks for "just in case" has devolved to dependency like methadone clinics for herion addicts.

My President fears a terrorist lobbing something over the space shield. I fear someone burning down a lab or greenhouse destroying that last whatever that perhaps is the cure to some major disease not yet in the "wild" or not even named.


I often laugh... (3.40 / 5) (#11)
by ti dave on Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 01:16:13 AM EST

when I've been busting my ass all day long, and I'm hot, sweaty and tired.

Laughing is cheap therapy at that point.


ti dave
"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

The meek inherit the Earth (3.00 / 7) (#12)
by wiredog on Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 08:01:01 AM EST

Little pieces of it, about 1 X 2 meters, and 2 meters deep.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
i agree, seeds are cool and all... (3.25 / 4) (#14)
by taruntius on Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 12:29:28 PM EST

but my question is this: if you're so all-fired hot about seed preservation and gardening and whatnot, why are you posting on K5 instead of out double-digging organic compost into your garden?

Seriously, though: the seeds of a good article are present here, you just need to make it about 1/3 as long, tone the rhetoric waaaay down and talk more about the actual issues (e.g. the evils of Montsano) you want people to know about.

P.S. If you have any seed-saving tips and techniques for tomato seeds, I'd love to hear them, as I'm trying to develop my own heirloom tomato variety. E-mail me at taruntius at hotmail dot com.

--Believing I had supernatural powers I slammed into a brick wall.
rationalists and the materialists? (3.00 / 2) (#15)
by drivers on Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 01:01:47 PM EST

What do you have against rationalism and materialism? You seem to be implying that those are counter to the idea of enjoying life at a subsistence level. I don't see why.

GM seeds (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by Scrymarch on Tue Aug 07, 2001 at 06:39:46 AM EST

I did hear a sensible justification for GM sterile seeds on Nanodot. They were created so people wouldn't freak out about horrible GM mutant frankenstein corn infecting the ecosystem.

What happenned was they freaked out about sterile seeds instead (actually, it freaked me out too). Then when Monsanto backed off on the sterility people got worked up about fish genes infecting the ecosystem, &c. I'm not fully convinced but it is an explanation that doesn't rely on multinational employees being pure evil.

Monsanto (3.00 / 1) (#26)
by Valdrax on Fri Aug 10, 2001 at 06:13:42 PM EST

Well, I don't mean to oversimplify, but if we're talking Monsanto, we are talking about a company that actually is just plain evil.

Monsanto has a long history of environmentally damaging products, such as Agent Orange, and a public record of not giving a care whether or not their products hurt people. They also trick people in 3rd world countries into dependency on their products, and callously suing them if they try to retain seeds just to survive. Monsanto's actions have repeatedly shown that they care nothing about human lives -- just profit.

People can say what they want about Microsoft, but at least their business practices don't poison the world, bankrupt farmers in developing nations, or cost people lives.

[ Parent ]
Everyone! (2.00 / 1) (#23)
by Rocky on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 10:44:34 AM EST

Leave our SeeDs alone!

Especially Squall and Seifer!

God help you if get that one...

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
Nah, it's not that. (2.00 / 1) (#24)
by piman on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 02:15:59 PM EST

I'm pretty sure the article is advocating the creation of Vash and Knives.

[ Parent ]
The Fist of Righteous Justice (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by snowlion on Fri Aug 10, 2001 at 02:16:34 AM EST

You really owe it to yourself to read "The Diamond Age".

Central to the story line is a Chinese Phile that calls itself "The Fist of Righteous Justice", that violently persue independance from dependence on Feed technology, and are trying to engineer their own Seed technology.

Not only is the Seed a nanotechnological product, but also the primary symbol throughout the book for the passage of time and the passage of culture and ways of life throughout the ages.

You really absolutely must read this book; I swear, you're entire article is straight from it.

Map Your Thoughts
A Manifesto for Seeds | 26 comments (18 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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