How Seed Saving Can Improve Food Security, Biodiversity, And Protect Healing Knowledge
The practice of saving seeds is one of the oldest ancient cultural traditions used to protect native plant species and ensure nutritious food security. Unfortunately this knowledge is being lost at alarming rates as the traditional practice of saving heirloom seeds has been replaced with commercial hybrid varieties suited to our current industrial agricultural system.
Disclaimer: This article is in partnership and sponsored by New Chapter, a leading vitamin and herbal supplement brand here in Vermont that is committed to supporting sustainability.
How Our Food System Has Changed
With the industrial revolution came a significant decrease in the diversity of native plant and animal species as development replaced wild landscapes, and large mega-farms replaced traditional methods of regenerative, organic farming.
As the ancient knowledge of caring for the land began to disappear so did the native diversity of plants and animals. As a result, heirloom seeds and plant species that our ancestors used to consume began to become more difficult to find, and in many cases disappeared altogether. This not only impacted the biodiversity of local landscapes but also began to impact the cultural diets and access that native communities had to traditional, nutritious foods.
So while in the past, the process of saving seeds was a natural means of preserving and cross-breeding plants from one harvest to the next, today seed saving is literally a way to ensure food security and diversity in our food system while also holding onto the many ancient healing practices that otherwise could be lost forever.
Seed saving is the practice of harvesting and storing seeds from vegetables, grain, herbs, and flowers for use and cross-breed from year to year for native plant biodiversity and a protected food supply.
What Is Biodiversity?
When we think about biodiversity, we are referring to the variety and variability of life on Earth. This variability allows for all species of plants and animals to play a role in supporting sustainability for life, and the more biodiverse an area is the more likely it is able to regenerate and maintain a healthy state of balance for all living species.
While biodiversity has always been an essential part of ensuring food security, today as our current climate crisis continues to impact the way we are able to farm and grow food, seed saving for the sake of biodiversity has become increasingly more critical as farmers depend on the ability to cross-breed and develop new plant varieties that can withstand our changing climate conditions.
The State of Biodiversity Around The World
According to a recent report by the United Nations Food And Agriculture Organization, while more than 6000 species of plants are currently being cultivated for food, only nine are responsible for more than 66% of total crop production.
We now know that this lack of biodiversity is taking a serious toll on the health of our soil and our pollinator populations, which are responsible for more than 1/3 of our food system and the nutrient density of our food. Additionally, lack of biodiversity has contributed to an increase in pests who no longer have the natural enemies they once did. The result is an ever-worsening global food crisis with hunger on the rise, and issues of access to nutritious food becoming increasingly more prevalent.
Food Security, Biodiversity And The Power Of Saving Seeds
Of the top crops being produced globally, maize (corn), wheat, and rice make up more than 60% of daily protein and calories. This is a major concern for food security and hunger as changes in climate related to temperature, precipitation, and varying weather patterns threaten to compromise our food supply.
The era of mono-culture crop farming is no longer sustainable as plant species become increasingly more susceptible to disease, pests, and changes in climate, making plant biodiversity one of our best chances for long-term food security and seed saving more important than ever. Now more than ever we cannot have the majority of the world relying on so few crops for nutrition, and we must focus on improving crop diversity that can have a better chance of adapting to inevitable changes in climate.
This is where seed saving becomes so important, and why companies like New Chapter have chosen to make it a priority! By focusing on improving plant diversity through seed saving we have the capacity to improve the variety of crops grown globally while also improving the health of both people and planet.
How Seed Saving Can Impact Food Security
Seed saving will play a critical role in ensuring sustainable food security in the future as we begin to rely more heavily on cross-breeding that can withstand changes in climate. For example, more seed diversity would allow for certain crops to be grown for optimal nutrition, while others can be grown for their faster maturation to adapt to shorter growing seasons, and some to withstand extreme drought and other variable weather conditions.
With the climate crisis impacting the way in which our food is grown with each passing season, now more than ever biodiversity is a key piece to not only ensuring a sustainable food supply but also combating climate change in the process.
How One Program Is Saving Endangered Plants and Healing Knowledge
As industrialization and urban development compromised biodiversity globally, we also lost many of the traditional lifestyles, practices, and traditions that had supported our health for centuries. Because biodiversity also refers to the way in which plants and animals interact with one another in the world, loss of biodiversity often times means a loss of connection to the world around us, and a loss of the healing knowledge we may need in the future.
Semillas Sagradas (Sacrad Seeds)
For these reasons and many more, in 2005, New Chapter helped to create Semillas Sagradas (Sacred Seeds), as a global initiative to save endangered plants and species, and protect traditional healing knowledge through seed saving. The beginning of Semillas Sagradas began in Costa Rica with one single location for protecting vulnerable medicinal seeds and plants that had lost their habitat or had been victim to over-harvesting and changes in climate.
From there the program grew to incorporate indigenous communities into the conversation and work of protecting plant diversity and healing traditions. Through the protection of these important medicinal plant species, and healing heritage practices, Semillas Sagradas was able to reconnect indigenous people with healing traditions that otherwise may have been lost and protect medicinal plant biodiversity in the process.
Now, with the support of United Plant Savers, the Semillas Sagradas program continues to support a global network of botanical sanctuary gardens in the United States and around the world, with the aim of preserving plant biodiversity and supporting the cultural knowledge and use of these medicinal plants for everyday use.
Women's Empowerment & Agriculture
Today more than 40% of a global agricultural labor force is comprised of women, which makes the empowerment, education, and support of women a key component of supporting our food system and improving biodiversity and health equity globally. To help support the empowerment of women within our global agricultural system many programs are being established to better educate and advocate for women who have otherwise been marginalized and taken for granted.
Semillas Sagradas and the Women's Earth Alliance
One example of this type of work is the proud partnership between the Semillas Sagradas initiative and the Women's Earth Alliance, which was formed to support the work of women in local agriculture. Through this joint initiative named "Seeds of Resilience", women are supported through a seed trading collective in Karnataka, India, the same area of the world where many of the New Chapter ingredients like Turmeric and Ginger are sourced.
Through this seed-trading program, women leaders are supported to build the capacity for home gardens and preserve the traditional knowledge of indigenous seed saving practices that ensure seed and food sovereignty, and support scalable female operated seed businesses.
For these reasons and many more, biodiversity needs to be the main focus and aim of advancements in agriculture moving forward, both for human health and the protection of healing plant species. We no longer can take for granted the role that biodiversity plays in ensuring a sustainable future and must utilize traditional practices like seed saving, regenerative farming, and community-based education to protect the future of our food security and the health of our bodies and planet.
How You Can Take Action
While protecting biodiversity is going to require high-level commitment from policy makers and industry leaders in many sectors from agriculture to commercial development, there is so much that individuals can do to help increase awareness and protect biodiversity and native plants locally.
One of the best things you can do to support biodiversity in your local community is to support the small farmers who are choosing to farm in a regenerative organic fashion that supports increased biodiversity.
Save Your Own Seeds:
Saving your own seeds from season to season is a lot of fun and a great way to to become more deeply involved in your home gardening practices, and the native plants that grow in your own backyard. You can save anything from flower seeds to fruits and vegetables. Just make sure to store them in a cool, dark, dry place in an air-tight container.
When you choose to support companies that are involved in the regenerative farming movement, you are choosing to use your money to vote for the kind of food system you want to see in the future. Companies like New Chapter are working hard to change the way our nutrients are sourced, the way farmers and workers are treated, and the way biodiversity is protected and supported in our food system.
Buy Heirloom Plant Varieties:
Buying heirloom plants from local farms or growing some of your own is another great way to support plant diversity and help in preserving genetic diversity of plants.
Support Non-Profits Focused On Seed Saving And Biodiversity:
There are so many amazing non-profits doing incredible work, but if you want to show your support for seed saving and biodiversity in farming then supporting the United Plant Savers and the Women's Earth Alliance would be a great place to start.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.