Seeding a Culture of Remembering


  • Deirdre Helfferich University of Alaska



Seed Saving, Gene Banks


First paragraphs:

For thousands of years gardeners and farmers have practiced basic plant breeding by selecting those plants deemed of value and saving their seed, tubers, rootstock, etc., to grow and care for them for another generation. Catherine Phillips uses the term seed saving in this broad and traditional sense throughout her book Saving More Than Seeds: Practices and Politics of Seed Saving. This long process of agricultural adaptation has resulted not only in the survival of species and strains of plants with qualities humans deem desirable, but also in the creation of rich cultural traditions as well (think cacao, henna, garlic, poppy). While we have saved their seeds, bulbs, and tubers, plants have profoundly affected us, even providing the foundation for civilization, some have argued (through, appropriately, grain for beer and thus, fittingly, politics (Hayden, 2013)).

Over the last century and a half, researchers and agriculturalists have sped up the adaptation process through the application of genetic technologies and the development of new breeding techniques. Agrobiodiversity, seed saving, and long-standing cultural traditions, however, are disappearing. Measures ostensibly designed to protect the agricultural sector and seed growers have produced negative consequences. For example, intellectual property rights and trade treaties have instead constrained the livelihood of farmers and the rights of gardeners. This has contributed to there being fewer producers and breeders. As a result, the public faces less variety and public accountability, and more genetic and economic vulnerability....


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Author Biography

Deirdre Helfferich, University of Alaska

Deirdre Helfferich is a writer, editor, and graphic designer for the University of Alaska School of Natural Resources and Extension. She was a founding member of the Alaska Food Policy Council and is director of Growing Ester's Biodiversity, the seed library program of the John Trigg Ester Library. She can be contacted at +1-907-479-3368; JTEL, P.O. Box 468, Ester, Alaska 99725.
Cover of Saving More Than Seeds



How to Cite

Helfferich, D. (2014). Seeding a Culture of Remembering. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 4(3), 209–212.