Thursday, June 23, 2016

Civil Disobedience

I planted an indoor garden last year on September 18, 2015 in response to The California Seed Law (AB-2470).

Section 5 specifies eight requirements for a printed label or tag on agricultural seed that is for sale or sold for sowing purposes. The labeling of seeds with the kind and variety of each seed component is primary, and the percentage by weight must be reported if it is a mixture of seed varieties. If weeds are present, these must be identified and quantified. There is also a requirement to specify the percentage by weight of inert matter. The seed packet must have a lot number.  The percentage of germination as well as the calendar month and year in which the test was completed must be reported. There must be a name and address of the person who labeled or sold the seed.

The bill defines a "neighbor" as one who lives within 3 miles of you. So you could legally occasionally sell seeds to your neighbor (who fits the aforementioned distance requirement) without following this labeling, but if you are having a transaction with someone who lives greater than 3 miles from you, then you are currently required to follow the guidelines as of August 25, 2014.

As it turns out, there is a new bill going through the California Senate Appropriations called the Seed Exchange Democracy Act (AB-1810).  AB-1810 would exclude seed libraries from the labeling requirements defined in AB-2470.  A “seed library” is defined as a registered noncommercial entity that lends, receives, or gives away seed at a place or event without creating a contractual obligation or an expectation to receive anything of value in return.

Any person or organization that operates a seed library [must] provide notification of its operation on a form created by the secretary.  The notification form shall only include the entity’s name and address and the contact information of the responsible party.  No fee shall be assessed for submitting the notification form. 

I personally didn't have any problem adhering to the labeling requirements.  Coming from a background of scientific cataloguing of seed libraries, I understand the need for standardization and accurate reporting of the contents of a given seed packet.  I also appreciate the reporting of inert materials in the seeds I buy, for example some Poppy seeds I bought recently contain 66% walnut shells "to distribute the seeds evenly," which I think really means, "to make it look like you're getting more seeds."  I guess I wasn't paying attention when I bought them.

The seed packet posted here is the result of my germination experiment where the labeling requirements were met, with the exception of a lot number.  Unfortunately, this was the last of my beautiful Easter Egg Radish seeds that I had been propagating for awhile, my seed stock was exhausted.  I assumed I would be able to bring these seeds full circle to making more seed, as I had always been successful in the past, however it was more difficult to grow the plants indoors.  They dried out extremely quickly and in the course of one weekend, I lost all of them.

The seeds I had of Romaine Lettuce, and Bonnie Spinach were distributed to a group of schoolchildren from Patrick Henry middle school during our outreach event called "I (heart) Science Day."  The kids played botanical bingo and the prizes were seeds.  Even though I don't sell my seeds, I went ahead and followed the labeling requirements.  I gave away all my Spinach seeds, but I still have some Lettuce left.  I have given away all my Chard seeds also, but hopefully the plants in my garden now will restock the library.

I want to show my students (left in the photo above) how to be official in the tracking and distribution of seed stocks.  I hope the kids from Patrick Henry (right in the photo above) have planted the seeds they won either at their house or at a School Garden.

I'm glad that the labeling requirements for small seed libraries (like mine) are changing since the germination experiment ended up using up some of my precious seeds.  I do think it's important to quantify whether there is an inert material in the seed, as well as whether there are noxious weed seeds contaminating the stock.

I'm not currently registered as a seed library, but I will look into doing that when AB-1810 is enacted.  I like that the language specifies that there will be no fee for registering.

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