UPDATE: April 13, 2010. I received this comment today:
I work with Burpee, and wanted to respond to some incorrect information in this post. Please be advised that Burpee was never bought by Monsanto. Burpee is privately owned by George Ball. I pasted a formal statement from Burpee below.
Burpee was founded in 1876 by seed pioneer W. Atlee Burpee. Today, the company remains privately owned by George Ball, a third generation seedsman, who serves as Chairman and CEO of W. Atlee Burpee & Co. and is past president of The American Horticultural Society. For more information, please visit our company history page at www.burpee.com.
In response, I’d like to state that while Burpee is truly not owned by Monsanto, Burpee (according to my knowledge at this writing) does receive Seminis seed, which is owned by Monsanto. So Burpee receives seeds from Monsanto. As far as I know, seed packages do not label the origin of their seeds. So the consumer has no idea if he’s getting Monsanto seeds or not. Because of Burpees’s association with Monsanto (as far to my knowledge- PLEASE SOMEONE correct me if I am wrong!), and because it is not possible for the consumer to know if the seeds are genetically-modified and/or from Seminis/Monsanto (as far to my knowledge- PLEASE SOMEONE correct me if I am wrong!), I will not buy Burpee seeds any more. The reader may do as he wishes, but that’s my statement.
Small Pines, a terrific Adirondacks “homesteading” kind of blog, has a great post about buying seeds. He mentions the monolithic company, Monsanto:
The Monsanto Company supplies most of the major seed companies in the US. (There are lists out there you can check.) Monsanto is one of the major players in the genetically altered food world. Of course, much of that genetic altering concerns bigger and better disease-resistant crops. However, it also involves altering plants so they produce only sterile seeds. No seed saving. You have to buy new every year. Sounds absurd, right? Unfortunately, it’s true. You can watch the documentary for the full scoop, if you like.
The documentary is here.
This stuff just makes my blood boil. Monsanto is out to control the world’s food supply, and they have the backing of lobbyists(and therefore, our bought-and-paid-for government) behind them.
This probably doesn’t make the nightly news, but Monsanto sues farmers for their crops and even their equipment, because of “seed contamination.” For example, an independent farmer in Canada who uses his own seeds and not Monsanto’s was sued by Monsanto. A Monsanto farm truck had spilled Monsanto seeds, and these seeds had cross-pollinated with the crops on the farmer’s land. Monsanto says that their seeds’ genes are “patented,” and therefore the farmer owes Monsanto money. It’s unbelievable! This is from a post titled Monsanto Seed Threat.
Some say that if farmers don’t want problems from Monsanto, they simply shouldn’t buy Monsanto’s GMO seeds. But it isn’t quite that simple. Monsanto contaminates the fields, trespasses onto the land taking samples, and then sues, saying they own the crop.
Meanwhile, Monsanto is taking many other steps to keep farmers and everyone else from having any access at all to buying, collecting, and saving of normal seeds:
1. They’ve bought up the seed companies across the Midwest.
2. They’ve written Monsanto seed laws and gotten legislators to put them through, that make cleaning, collecting and storing of seeds so onerous in terms of fees and paperwork that having normal seed becomes almost impossible.
3. Monsanto is pushing laws that ensure farmers and citizens can’t block the planting of GMO crops even if they can contaminate other crops.
4. There are Monsanto regulations buried in the FDA rules that make a farmer’s seed cleaning equipment illegal because it’s now considered a “source of seed contamination.”
Well, for a few years, I have been buying the bulk of my seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. There’s a list of Monsanto seed companies here at the Garden of Eatin’, and they list Johnny’s Selected Seeds as a Monsanto-owned company. However, the owner of Johnny’s say that Johnny’s Selected Seeds has no affiliation with Monsanto Company. The affiliation is not direct, but Johnny’s does get some of their vegetable seeds from Seminis, a company recently purchased by Monsanto. Johnny’s says they are in the process of replacing their 40 Seminis varieties.
[P.S. Monsanto does NOT own Johnny's and Monsant does NOT own Burpee, either. It's the association with Seminis that seems to disturb a lot of organic growers like myself.]
I have also heard of an organic seed farm in Vermont called High Mowing Organic Seeds. I’ll be getting my seeds from organic, non-Monsanto companies from now on. High Mowing Organic Seeds has good prices, too. There’s a list of “good” seed companies at the Garden of Eatin’ website.