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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
Is It Really Free?
by Debbie Teashon
Yesterday, I received a package with ten packets of free seed from a company named Seminis, a seed house I didn’t know existed. I am a garden writer, so it’s not unusual to receive free seed or samples of horticulture related products. On the back of the packets, I read five paragraphs of fine print; none of it was about how to grow the seed. It read like a binding contract drawn up by lawyers placing restrictions on how you can use their product. Read on:
“Do not open this container or plant the seed, until you have read and understood the NOTICE TO PURCHASER. This seed is intended for planting by professional growers familiar with this variety.
Use of this seed indicates your acceptance of the following terms. If you do not accept these terms, you may return the seed for full credit.
By opening the container you agree: (a) not to save any seeds, plants, plant parts, genetic material, parental line seed or plants or plant parts which may be found herein, and resulting products (“MATERIAL”); (b)to prohibit any selection of MATERIAL from the field by anyone other than SEMINIS or for purposes of harvesting the produce for commercial sale; and (c) not to use any MATERIAL from the field by any breeding, research, seed production, reverse engineering, molecular or genetic analysis or other purposes not specifically allowed herein.”
The seed packets are quite large, I suppose so they can fit the fine print onto the packages. Yes, I received the seeds free, but I certainly would not recommend buying this product with all their restrictions. None of them—peas, beans, tomatoes and lettuce—are genetically engineered, that I know of, so how they seem to think they have ownership of the genetics of a plant is beyond my level of understanding. If I grew these hybrid seeds and saved the progeny (which I wouldn’t because seed from hybrids are usually inferior or different from their parents), the seed would not be the same genetically that the company produced, so technically do they have a leg to stand on? However, by opening the container, that means I agree to the above. In addition, although I’m not sure if lawfully I am bound to a contract I didn’t sign, I don’t care to challenge or defend myself in a court of law.
I read the cover letter in the unsolicited package and noticed one of the e-mails listed was from Monsanto.com. I knew Monsanto had been purchasing seed houses, but I didn’t know which ones they were. Now I know; one is Seminis.
I refuse to support Monsanto for many reasons, the scope of which is too large for this little opinion piece. As an organic gardener—one who believes that no one should be able to own seed genetics—I think it is fair that a person or company be reimbursed for their patented plant hybrids and receive royalties from anyone that propagates them by cuttings and divisions, for resale. However, that is where their control ends.
After reading over five paragraphs of fine print on these seed packets, I realize even more the importance of open pollinated strains of seeds, diversification of their genetics, and that no one should have control of our seeds, especially our food sources.
I enjoy trying new seeds and writing about them, but with so many restrictions placed on these particular ones, using them—even the ones marked non-treated—would make me feel like I am being held hostage by a control freak. I can only say thanks, but no thanks. The seed packets are going into the trash can unopened; this is the only fitting review I can give to a company that has numerous control issues and whose policies and products are negatively impacting farming communities and the environment the world over.