RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—If you're planning your garden for this year's growing season, there's good reason to avoid the 50-cent packets sold at the supermarket or big-box garden center and load up on organic seeds instead. For one thing, chances are those seeds came from a corporation that gets most of its profits from genetically engineered crops, which might bother you if you're growing your own food as a way to opt out of our broken, corporately controlled food supply. Also, when you choose certified-organic seeds, you'll likely get a better-quality crop.
THE DETAILS: Because of all the seed-company consolidation that's taken place over the past decade, it's pretty difficult to find seeds that aren't owned or produced by large biotech corporations, such as Monsanto and Syngenta. In 2005, Monsanto acquired Seminis, a seed company that, at the time, controlled 40 percent of the U.S. vegetable seed market. Though the company's primary customers are farmers, they also sell many of their 3,500 seed varieties in home-gardener seed catalogs. Similarly, Syngenta owns a seed company called Rogers Advantage that also supplies stores with a large number of home-gardener seeds. Often, these companies supply their seeds to other independent companies, making their products even harder to avoid.
To make matter worse, nonorganic seeds may have been pretreated with fungicides intended to prevent mold or other fungi from growing on the seeds. And those chemical fungicides could wind up in your favorite vegetables. Nonorganic seedlings are treated much the same way, and it's likely that they're sitting in potting soil that contains chemical fertilizers.
WHAT IT MEANS: In gardening, as in food, it's best to think local and organic, says John Navazio, senior scientist with the Organic Seed Alliance. "We like to see people support local, regional seed systems," he says, adding that most smaller local companies either breed their own seed or work with a network of farmers, instead of buying from large corporations. And it'll most likely benefit your garden, as the companies will know what grows and thrives well in your local climate. "If a seed company is good and really engaged in plant breeding, you really stand to prosper in your garden since it's adapted from regionally grown seed."