GMO/Monsanto-Free Seed Companies, Seed Starting, and Other “Seedy” Things…
The love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies.
– Gertrude Jekyll
As we are digging ourselves out of the snow banks or watching the flood water recede and preparing for the next winter storm, I will wager dollars to dahlias that we are dreaming of our spring gardens! Isn’t that how gardeners spend their New Years? We can’t help it…seed catalogs of all types are starting to arrive – what one gardener I know calls “gardening porn”. There they are, in all their splendid glory…glossy colorful pictures of our horticultural dreams. Oh the potential, the possibilities of what those seeds could become (or not) in our own gardens. This is how gardeners ring in the New Year! We close our 2010 gardening journals, full of success and, yes, failure, and open 2011’s journal to all those blank pages full of potential! So HGEL’s GroEdibles blog over the next few months (and GRŌ our newsletter) will deal with steps to take to ensure that what comes out of your garden this year looks just as good as those beautiful pictures you’re lusting over right now – site & plant selection, soil preparation, composting (including vermicomposting), irrigation – among other topics. We start, as do all things, with seeds.
We are all concerned with buying non-GMO seeds but, personally, I’m also concerned with avoiding seeds that come from Monsanto or any of their subsidiaries as they are the “800 lb. gorilla” in the seed industry. This is becoming more and more difficult as the charts below illustrate. The easiest solution is to buy organic, heirloom, open pollinated seeds whenever possible. Of course, the safest practice is saving your own seed…but that’s another blog! As with most things these days, being a careful consumer is the key in determining that what we put in our gardens is the purest possible and will help ensure the continuation of our open pollinated seed source. This is a personal choice of course but, the more you know, the better off your garden (and the world) will be!
World Domination: The World’s Top 10 Seed Companies
Company – 2007 seed sales (US$ millions) – % of global proprietary seed market
1.Monsanto (US) – $4,964m – 23%
2.DuPont (US) – $3,300m – 15%
3.Syngenta (Switzerland) – $2,018m – 9%
4.Groupe Limagrain (France) – $1,226m – 6%
5.Land O’ Lakes (US) – $917m – 4%
6.KWS AG (Germany) – $702m – 3%
7.Bayer Crop Science (Germany) – $524m – 2%
8.Sakata (Japan) – $396m – <2%
9.DLF-Trifolium (Denmark) – $391m – <2%
10.Takii (Japan) – $347m – <2%
Top 10 Total – $14,785m – 67% [of global proprietary seed market]
Source: ETC Group
To download a PDF of this chart, click HERE.
To download a PDF of this chart, click HERE.
Late in 2009, HGEL fans and I had a great discussion on HGEL’s Facebook fan page about Monsanto, it’s acquired seed company, Seminis and GMO specifically. This discussion inspired me to do some investigation into which of my (and your) favorite seed companies were selling these seeds. This resulted in a list of GMO/Monsanto-free seed companies being published on the HGEL Facebook fanpage as a NOTE. Below are the Facebook NOTES with the lists and emails I received from a couple of the companies:
Seed Companies & their Relationships w/Monsanto
Cautionary Note: As with all things “cyber”, the list below should only serve as a guide. It hasn’t been updated since 8/09 so it is possible that more companies have joined their ranks since then. I strongly urge you to call your seed company if it does not appear on this list to check whether or not they still carry the Monsanto/Seminis or any GMO seeds. If they do, it’ll be a perfect opportunity to persuade them to do otherwise! Seed Companies Safe from Monsanto/Seminis GMO seeds (source of original list: mothering.com forum discussion) Updated August 12, 2009 with few updates added by HGEL. The companies listed in red are some of my personal favorites.
All Good Things Organic Seeds
Baker Creek Seed Co.
Berlin Seeds – no known website
Burpee Seeds* (They do sell hybrid pepper and tomato seeds from Monsanto. See email from them below.)
The Cook’s Garden* (owned by Burpee – see above)
D. Landreth Heirloom Seeds Co. (Oldest seed company in US)
Diane’s Flower Seeds (she has veggies now, too)
Fedco Seed Co. – FANS OF FEDCO – YOU MUST READ THIS! http://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/monsanto.htm
Garden City Seeds
Heirloom Acres Seeds
Heirlooms Evermore Seeds
High Mowing Seeds
Kitchen Garden Seeds
Lake Valley Seeds
Mountain Rose Herbs
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
Pinetree (no GMO seeds but did have a long relationship with Seminis before being bought by Monsanto. They have promised to send me a list of those seeds so that consumers can avoid them if they desired.) *PineTree (Superseeds) just sent me the list of seeds they buy from Seminis. Please see below for the full list)
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Seed Saver’s Exchange
Seeds of Change (now owned by Mars)
Underwood Garden Seeds
Wood Prairie Farm
OK…SO IT’S REALLY UP TO YOU TO MAKE THAT CALL. If your inquiry reveals that they do carry Monsanto/Seminis seeds, be sure to speak up and request they terminate their relationship with Monsanto/Seminis, as well as expressing support for them as a company you’d continue to buy seeds from in the future. Obviously this is a personal decision. However, to ensure food security, and the ongoing availability of good, local, organic produce, it is extremely important to do whatever we can to prevent Monsanto from colonizing our primary sources of seed.
I’ve got 2 companies that I’ll be contacting. How ’bout you?
More Words from PINETREE GARDEN SEEDS on Their Relationship w/ Monsanto/Seminis
Date: Tue, January 19, 2010 9:23 am
Hello Geri, Thank you for your inquiry about Pinetree Garden Seeds and
1. We do not sell and genetically modified seeds.
2. We have been doing business with the PEOPLE from Seminis for
more than 20 years, long before they were bought by Monsanto. We feel
loyalties to the folks who have served us well over these years. I will be
happy to send you the list of seeds we offer that come from Seminis.
Currently I don’t have them in an electronic file, but if you’ll send me your
mailing address, I’ll get it out to you.
We appreciate your efforts to keep seeds from being pattened by Monsanto.
*PINETREE (Superseeds) buys some seeds from Monsanto/Seminis. (Please check w/ Pinetree as they may have reduced this list since earlier this year) The list of the varieties to avoid are listed below:
SEMINIS GARDEN VARIETIES
44. PACKMAN BROCCOLI
48 EARLY DIVIDEND BROCCOLI
51 BUBBLES (DISC)
70 DANVERS HALF LONG CARROT
8402 CHEDDAR CAULIFLOWER
133 SWEETER YET CUCUMBER
137 SWEET SUCCESS CUCUMBER
138 EARLY TRIUMPH CUCUMBER
142 SALAD BUSH CUCUMBER
151 DUSKY EGGPLANT
158 LAVENDER TOUCH EGGPLANT
20501 SIMPSON ELITE LETTUCE
215 RED SAILS LETTUCE
224 ALASKA MELON
22601 AMBROSIA MELON
230 FASTBREAK MELON
237 ANNIE OAKLEY II OKRA
239 CAJUN DELIGHT OKRA
257 MR BIG PEA
27101 BIG BERTHA SW PEPPER
274 RED BEAUTY
279 FOOLED YOU PEPPER
281 HOLY MOLE PEPPER
293 SPIRIT PUMPKIN
300 ORANGE SMOOTHIE PUMPKIN
340 AMBASSADOR SUM SQUASH
342 GLODBAR SUM SQUASH
34601 SCALLOPINI SUM SQUASH
347 SUNDANCE SUM SQUASH
348 GREYZINI SUM SQUASH
34801 PAPAYA PEAR SUM SQUASH
349 GOLDRUSH SUM SQUASH
350 LOLITA SUM SQUASH
362 TABLE ACE WINTER SQUASH
371 EARLY BUTTERNUT WINTER SQUASH
38001 AUTUMN CUP WINTER SQUASH
38202 HI-BETA GOLD WINTER SQUASH
389 ALPINE STRAWBERRY WHITE
390 BEEFMASTER TOMATO
391 BETTER BOY TOMATO
393 GOLDEN GIRL TOMATO
395 CLUSTER GRANDE TOMATO
400 CELEBRITY TOMATO
407 SUN SUGAR TOMATO
41401 POLISH LINGUISA TOMATO
446 SWEET DIANE WATERMELON
W120 STRAIGHT N NARROW BEAN
W130 COOL BREEZE IMP CUCUMBER
W479 THAI NIPPON TAKA HOT PEPPER
More words from Burpee Seed Co. about GMO seeds and their relationship with Monsanto
Subject: MONSANTO and BURPEE RELATIONSHIPS
From: “Alma Gaskill” <AGaskill@burpee.com>
Date: Mon, January 18, 2010 12:22 pm
To: <email@example.com>Dear Gardening Friend,
In answer to your e-mail question, we purchase a small portion of our vegetable seeds from Syngenta, since they carry some of the very best Home Garden varieties of sweet corn, bean, and peas in the world. We purchase some of our hybrid pepper and tomato seeds from a division of Monsanto. However the vast majority of our flower and vegetable varieties are either produced exclusively for us (our exclusive Burpee bred items indicated as ‘Burpee Exclusive’ in our catalog and on the Internet at www.burpee.com) by a world-wide network of over 100 reputable small to medium sized wholesale seed companies.
Burpee provides a full line of vegetable seed produced, stored, and packaged in compliance with Federal and State laws that comply with the strict definitions of “Organic” Seeds, if that is important to you.
Finally, NONE of the varieties offered by Burpee either from very large or very small seed suppliers are GMO (genetically modified or altered) or modified chemically in any way. All of our seeds are sold untreated, so the gardener can choose to plant untreated, or use chemical or organic treatment or supplements as they see fit. Burpee is committed to providing the best “natural” seed portfolio in the industry to our Home Garden customers, and stand behind what we sell.
W. Atlee Burpee & Company
300 Park Ave.
Warminster, PA 18974
NOTE: Among others, Burpee owns The Cook’s Garden. If you choose not to support Monsanto, perhaps buy your pepper and tomato seeds from one of the other companies that are on the “SAFE – NON-GMO” list in an earlier note. Some of you will choose not to buy from the seed companies that still carry ANY seeds from Monsanto as a form of protest against this global monster. This is a personal choice of course. Ms. Gaskill was contacted to confirm that the above was still true. I am awaiting her response. 1/5/11: Ms. Gaskill of Burpee confirmed that her above email statement was still accurate.
Check out the SAFE SEED LIST from the Council for Responsible Genetics for a list of seed houses that have taken the SAFE SEED PLEDGE!
Making the Case for Heirloom/Open Pollinated Seeds
SEED STARTING – When do I start seeds indoors for spring planting?
First things first…The article below from University of Nebraska takes us through understanding the important information on your seed packets:
Understanding the Seed Packet
The correct timing of seed sowing is a critically important factor in successful indoor seed starting. In winter months, it’s very easy to get “itchy” to start growing and some gardeners sow seeds too soon. Seedlings that are held indoors too long tend to perform poorly once they are transplanted into the garden. Most seeds should be sown 4 to 12 (more or less depending on the particular veggie’s germination rate) weeks prior to transplanting into the garden (after your last frost date). Patience, the gardener says, is a virtue!
The time it takes for seedlings to be ready for transplanting outdoors will vary.
Once the seeds have germinated, you will see two seed leaves or cotyledons. Eventually, these seed leaves will wither. Next, true leaves will form. These true leave look like the plant’s typical leaves. Transplant the seedlings to individual containers once the first set of true leaves appear. Included in the time it takes before the seedlings should be transplanted is a HARDENING OFF period of about a week and a half to 2 weeks. Indoor seed sowing requires specific temperature, watering and fertilizing levels and light to be successful (see link below for full instructions!).
NOTE TO BEGINNERS: Some vegetables don’t like to be transplanted. These vegetables include many of the root crops, such as carrots, beets, turnips, and parsnips. They’re cold-hardy vegetables, so you can direct seed them pretty early anyway. Crops like corn, beans, and peas are also pretty finicky about transplanting and grow better when you direct-seed.
Here is step-by-step process of sowing seeds indoors from North Dakota State University (click on image to download pdf):
How to Take Your Soil Temperature Reading
– Use a soil thermometer to track the temperature of the soil in your vegetable garden. Insert the thermometer probe to the depth you will sow seeds (1-2″). Test the temperature in the morning. When the soil temperature reaches a consistent reading for at least three consecutive days, you can use the link above for the PDF on minimum soil temperatures for various crops to see what you can plant.
Other “SEEDY” Things…
Probably the #1 New Years resolution of gardeners. Here are a few ideas to help you keep your tools where you want them and just some generally good things to help you in the garden:
- Better Homes & Gardens: Storage Secrets for Your Garden Shed. Keep all your tools easy to find and displayed with style using our guide to organizing.
- Martha Stewart: Vegetable Garden Good Things. 21 really good things!
- Gardener’s Supply Company:Garden Clean-up Cart. I’m saving up my pennies for this one!
- Good Housekeeping: Organizing Your Garden Workspace. Love the DYI tool caddy! AND New Garden Gear I want those shoes!
- Seed Storage Containers:Kilner jars, with glass lids fastened on a red rubber seal; metallic joint and fastening device. Of course store them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. These type of jars were rated highly for long term storage in a study done by Dept. Biología Vegetal, Escuela T. S. Ing. Agrónomos. Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. 28040 – Madrid. Spain. Long Term Seed Preservation
6. Cooking up a Story: Organizing your seeds