Seed-swapping events support healthy, unprocessed food, says columnist. (Stock photo)

Seed-swapping events support healthy, unprocessed food, says columnist. (Stock photo)

OPINION: Grassroots seed protection essential for good food

Seed protectors necessary in the face of corporate capture of food systems, says columnist

BY MARJORIE STEWART

Back at the beginning of pandemic life in B.C., I was dumbfounded when petty officialdom administering the Public Health Act decided supermarkets were essential services but farmers markets were not. Farmers markets are essential to me because, since Island Roots Co-op’s Bowen Road market went year-round, I have steady access to unprocessed foods that deliver the high-value nutrition that the food corporations have almost eliminated from supermarket food.

There must have been an uproar because soon the markets were trusted to open. I was waiting for Seedy Sunday to acquire some seed potatoes to avoid the awful, nameless potatoes sold in supermarkets. But Seedy Saturdays and Sundays never happened in B.C. this year. Another asinine decision decreed that seeds are not essential to food and it was too late to rescue the seed-swapping events around B.C. It appears that it is not in the remit of health managers to support healthy, unprocessed food.

Food security sources are currently alarmed by a United Nations Food Summit proposed for later this year and planned secretively at the World Economic Forum at Davos. According to U.S. non-profit A Growing Culture, the agenda was set behind closed doors without consultation with Indigenous and peasant farmers and this summit is designed to “facilitate increased corporate capture of the food system.” Three UN Special Rapporteurs to the Rights of Food have taken issue with the undemocratic plan. Elizabeth Mpofu, of Via Campesina, representing more than two million peasant farmers worldwide, says peasant farmers have been excluded. Adding insult to injury, the UN Secretary General has appointed as special envoy to this summit the president of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, an organization that A Growing Culture says “promotes a high-tech, high-cost approach to agriculture, heavily reliant on agrochemical inputs and fertilizers” and is heavily funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others. Nearly 700 civil society organizations have expressed concerns and received no replies. Sounds like a coup attempt to me.

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Farm Folk City Folk of Vancouver held a virtual Seedy Saturday conference in January with keynote speaker Vandana Shiva, seed activist and outspoken debunker of Bill Gates’s plans for a second ‘Green’ Revolution. Her half-century of activism began as a tree hugger with the Chipko movement to protect vital Himalayan forests and soon became focused on saving seeds from obliteration by reckless corporate profiteers such as Monsanto and bio-piracy in general. She denounced the “blind march to extinction “of agri-business and dismissed the ubiquitous Gates who she said “knows nothing.” She is suspicious of the Gates Foundation and other corporate interest in the massive seed bank at Svalberg and quotes Henry Kissinger: “If you control food you control the people.”

Shiva speaks lyrically of learning from the seed, which represents both memory and hope for the future and advises grassroots organizing to help build an ecosystem of seed protectors.

Shiva’s talk can be found by searching YouTube.

If you want reliable seeds, go for Salt Spring Seeds or buy at the Island Roots Market, Beban Park, Wednesdays 2-6 p.m.

Marjorie Stewart is past chairperson of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at marjorieandalstewart@gmail.com.

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