On the interpretation of seed exchange law

The language being used now to interpret the seed laws in each of the U.S. states will set a precedent for the future of seed swapping in the US. Since this has gotten national coverage, and if this is really spreading to multiple states, then how this debate plays out will have broad consequences for interpretations of seed exchange laws. It's very important to keep the values of the movement in forefront of our arguments. It's NOT about whether we can co-exist, it's about which values will be reinforced as a result of these debates.

That being said, seed libraries are fundamentally about changing the values in how we relate to seeds, genetic data property laws, and community. Seed libraries protect and maintain genetic data the way public libraries protect and maintain cultural data. Define seed laws as to place power in the hands of the few for fear of the data escaping official control, is similar to defining publishing laws in the hands of the few for fear of information escaping official control. So now we set the tone. Which values do we choose to uphold? We've come this far. Let us argue for protocol and legal structures that uphold these values.

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Comment by Leslie Goldman on August 24, 2014 at 4:23pm



I would like to see us add comments here, as well as new suggested protocols.

Comment by Leslie Goldman on August 23, 2014 at 8:56pm

Devon,  I am inspired by your message here this morning, especially as I work with images to Plant Clarity around the Simpson Seed Library-Pennsylvania Department of Ag Communications.  It is three weeks now that I began writing about this issue.  I so appreciate your support with helping me get the word out about my story called Planting Clarity!  A Simpson Seed Library-Department of Ag Wrap Up.  http://curezone.org/blogs/fm.asp?i=2196853

This story was intended to clarify some of the relationships that are just beginning to get clear as we begin to focus on what I sense will become a national conversation on Seed Saving, Support for Seed Libraries, and GMO Education.

After my initial upset because I imagined that an assault was being made on Seed Saving,  I contacted Johnny Zook, the Seed Program Supervisor.  He began the communications and conversations with the Simpson Seed Library.  I discovered a welcoming voice.  He was open to my ideas.  

I learned that he and his department were not out to crackdown or shutdown the Simpson Seed Library.  He was more concerned with Truth in Labeling issues and making sure that the Seed Libraries knew about the Seed Laws.  His position was not adversarial, although you would never know that from stories that set the internet ablaze.  Most of this early information came from the Naomi Cleason piece of July 31 in the Carlisle Sentinel where the worlds "Crackdown" and "Argi-Terrorism" first got into collapsed conversations.


My latest work,  Toward a National Protocol Discussion is here on the Plant Your Dream Blog:  http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=2197727.

Here are a few points I want to clarify now, as I see it.

The Protocols that were accepted by the Simpson Library in behalf of its Seed Library were intended as a Draft.  Johnny Zook imagined they would be red inked, edited in a back and forth conversation.  They were accepted "as is" by the Simpson Seed Library.

A critical issue that was left out of the Protocols is the importance of locally adapted biodiverse healthy plants suited to each individual bioregion.  This is for the purpose of authentic Food Security that many of us know needs to be locally based.

This understanding was not expressed in the original meeting of July 8 when a group including reps from the Department of Ag and the Simpson Library got together to come up with the protocols that are now accepted and are being accepted by various states. The reps from the Simpson Seed Library did not bring them up. Johnny Zook, in my conversation with him August 22, said that he had been contacted by six states so far looking toward the protocols with the idea of adopting them.

He also told me in emails that he was open to hearing from Seed Library Leaders.

My Seed Dream that I have literally planted is that key Seed Library Leaders will help in coming up with a more mature Protocol that will be accepted nationally. I believe that entering a positive communication with Johnny Zook is a good place to begin.

I do not believe we are in a war here, we are in a national education process.  We are just getting into the process of clarifying.


We cannot look to newspaper headlines to make the news for us.  Words in the Wall Street Journal Article of August 21 I find still inflammatory:  Gardeners on Alert As Pennsylvania Targets Risks of Seed Exchange.  http://online.wsj.com/articles/gardeners-on-alert-as-pennsylvania-t...

I do not feel that the "Risks" were the primary concern of Johnny Zook. He was more concerned with Communicating about the existing Laws and helping the Simpson Seed Library retool so it could function as a Seed Library without being classified as a Seed Distributor. The Laws define Commercial Sales Operations. He points out what these laws were, and then the group that meet went about making Protocols that they thought would work.

In subsequent conversations and emails I have had with him, he found the compelling argument and importance of locally adapted seeds interesting.  He made his own suggestions for how this could work and saw the advantages of having the Seed Bank in the hands of the members and stored in different places outside the Library itself.  How the members organized the Seed Banks was not the concern of the Department of Agriculture.  That is our work to do.

He made it clear to me on August 22 that these Protocols are not laws.  They can be amended to reflect the Values that we find so important.  He also told me that it would be easier to work with the Protocols that attempting to change the Seed Laws.

The Protocols as they exist now are worth studying.  We can find ways to adapt to those that work or add to them.




“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has
been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed
there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”--Henry David Thoreau

Devon,  I like very much that you are taking about Seed Values.

Seeds have always been my teacher.  I call this Plant Parenthood.

The notecard from the Simpson Library says:  New Heights of Knowledge.  What better education can we get that to be gardeners and allow the seeds to reparent us?

We are merely entering the beginning of a grand conversation.  Where will it end?  I want to see more gardeners.  I want to see more people get Engaged in growing Heirloom Seeds and Ancient Grains.  When we get Engaged this creates the Grassroots movement that will lead to a gov shift in awareness.

I am not against government.  I merely want to see us accept that we are here to govern ourselves and allow the seeds to help us get our Values--and beat back with nature.



On a practical note, I suggest that one Protocol that can be added says,

 A primary intent of the independently organized member run seed libraries that work with support from Seed Libraries in Public Libraries would be to foster food security through developing locally seeds adapted to each local community.

What Protocols would you add?


Leslie Goldman, Your Enchanted Gardener, writes daily on the Plant Your Dream Blog.  He will be leading an opening ceremony and class called, Helping Uncle Sam Marry Auntie (Anti) GMO at 11:30 am, September 9, 2014 at the National Heirloom Expo in Kraft Hall, Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

He teaches the children at 12:15, Wed 10 on Growing a Heathier Pizza with Plant Your Dream Seeds in the Education & Fun Area.

He looks forward to participating in The National Seed Library Summit that will take place 4-6 pm on Wed. September 10 at the National Heirloom Expo.

Leslie's Teachings for the Expo are being compiled here:  


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