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I don’t intend making this a common occurrence, but I always said I would like to have a political element to my posts. This is to inform you of the changes that are being proposed next week to EU legislation on the seed industry. I’ve been a big fan and subscriber to an organisation known as Irish Seed Saver Association for many years. As the name suggests, they save seeds of various fruit and vegetables so that we can purchase these seeds to grow in our own gardens. What’s special about these seeds is that they are old and local varieties that have grown for years and therefore are more likely to survive, grow and produce more seed. Seems simple enough.

However, the urgent concern for it’s members, including myself, and it is likely the concern of any food bloggers out there – the EU will vote on a change to legislation that will make this organisation illegal. If successful, local seed savers and sellers will not be allowed do what they do best. The only seed we can buy and use will be those produced and sold by big corporations – the name Monsanto will probably sound familiar to many of you.

There are two immediate ways to try get your voice heard if you are against this legislation coming into force:

1. Avaaz.org is a simple online petition you can sign and get more information. Their synopsis of the issue is outlined here

The forbidden seed! How many here know that the EU is preparing legislation that will make it illegal to grow crops that are not on a list of approved seeds? A list that currently 60% dominated by big corporations like Monsanto, AstraZeneca, Bayer and others? Today, there are three lists, one for professional growth, one of the endangered species and one for amateur cultivation. The latter two should be removed. The pros list are basically only hybrids – which means that you can not take next year’s seed from his crop. Furthermore, it not only be forbidden to sell other seeds than those already mentioned, but also to grow. “File sharing” in the area of seeds will become a criminal act. This means that people be even less able to influence what you eat, when you can not even decide what to grow. It also means that the varieties that are historically interesting will disappear, even varieties that can withstand our climate, because the market is too small for the majors to be interesting. This means that poor people who live off what they grow is referred to in the seedtrades discretion in terms of pricing, which can be costly where there are few players. What do we think about this? Source: Nordgen, Alnarp, association SESAM English translater Monica Ramsten 

2. You can write to our EU Commissioner, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn who gets to vote on this and ask her to vote NO, we want choice, local and historic seeds; not GMO products:

maire.geoghegan-quinn@ec.europa.eu

SUGGESTED MAIL:

Dear Ms Geoghegan-Quinn,

I have recently been made aware of the upcoming proposed changes to EU seed marketing law. This proposed new regulation will de facto ban old and rare varieties and farmers varieties and stop the exchange and selling of traditional seeds.

The apparent background to this is that DG SANCO (the Directorate General of the EU for Sanitary and Consumer affairs) has been working on a proposal for a new regulation driven by lobbying of the big agricultural seed companies. Apparently, however, two other EU directorates, DG AGRI (agricultural affairs) and DG ENVI (environmental affairs) both opposed the last draft of the proposal because it was so bad for agriculture and biodiversity. DG SANCO is now pushing ahead with the new law by putting it directly to the Commission this week.

I would urge you to vote against the current proposal, as it impacts everyone who cares about our seeds and our freedom to save, use, and exchange them.

Given our Irish heritage and background in agriculture and indeed the many rare and beautiful varieties unique to our country, it is vital that you understand how the proposal for a new EU seed legislation will affect the cultural and biodiversity heritage of Ireland, and the freedom of farmers and growers to use the seeds and the varieties they want to. By forcing registration of all varieties of every crop species that exists, the new law will prohibit old, rare and traditional public-domain farm varieties. This will guarantee huge profits for the seed industry but will be a terrible loss to the people of Europe as our agricultural heritage is outlawed overnight!

I would urge you SAY NO TO PROHIBITION OF SEEDS OF DIVERSITY! VOTE NO….

Yours faithfully,

___________________

Please consider making the time to fight this. If you like choice in your food, If you like to grow your own food, If you like the idea of sharing your food history with your children – this campaign is very important. Help stop big business telling you what to eat by controlling the seeds of the food we can grow!! More info is available here

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Recently, following a link from Imen McDonnell (@ModernFarmette) to a short movie (see here), I was reminded of my past. I studied folklore in college and researched similar topics to that mentioned in the film. The subject of vernacular furniture and storytelling interested me, but I have to admit I questioned the importance of studying the ‘History of the Spade in Ireland’ in my lectures.

Anyway, viewing this short film on the old kitchen dresser reminded me to appreciate again the simple and practical design of the furniture and tools of our past. I’m thrilled to see this film has gained interest amongst many other people. The storytelling skill of Tony Donoghue and his team has created an award winning film describing the emotion as well as the craftsmanship surrounding this furniture. [The award was given at the most recent Sundance festival in Utah.]

Thankfully, a combination of interests, skills and tools has brought this short movie to me, and to many others. The original craftsmen that built the furniture and the people who used it have created the subject, the curiosity and skill of the film makers created the story and the technological wizardry of the Internet, Twitter and YouTube has helped share and distribute this experience to the world. The collaboration of minds in various fields of expertise can be unexpectedly useful to us all.

When I was a student I often combined the teachings of other Departments with my own course of study. I wanted to look at a particular subject from various angles and try to interpret a story to tell from all the resources. In my final year, instead of the usual thesis, I had to create a programme for radio. This was a task that involved using a new medium to share a story.

The digital age today offers many opportunities for storytelling and sharing images. However, I’m beginning to feel a bit like the old kitchen dresser – wondering where is my place – in the kitchen or shed? I’m now getting to the stage of life where I’ll be needing constant up-cycling and repair! Thankfully, the old country kitchen dresser is still appreciated by many and has a role in our modern society. I hope to use this short film to help me appreciate the skill and knowledge of the past and to use the technology of today to create my future. I’ll start with this blog posting. 🙂

Still shot from the award winning short film ‘Irish Folk Furniture’

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