Andrew Brown

I want to branch into a topic an arm’s length away from cannabis/reform activism for this editorial, and speak about a pressing issue facing us on a global level—seed security. I figure that as it appears cannabis is on the cusp of being somewhat legalized for big business, while remaining (and possibly becoming more) illegal for medical users and the public in general, that a seed for a highly profitable plant will be extremely vulnerable to genetic modification and patenting.

While we can hold, plant, and save heirloom seeds, and have farms refusing genetically modified (GM) seeds, the nature of open pollination threatens to contaminate our heirloom crops. Hemp is a perfect example of a highly vulnerable plant. Pollen from hemp fields can be found hundreds of kilometers away from its source, so if a farmer plants a GM hemp crop up wind from an organic farmer another town (or even province) over, the pollen from the GM crop will pollinate the organic crop contaminating its genetics so that the next generation of that line will hold GM properties. Currently, there is a national effort spurred by Canadian farmers concerned about the approval of GM alfalfa being able to be grown in Canada. Beyond the contamination of genetics, the GM alfalfa will make it into the food system through animal feed and and crop mulching.

Why should we be worried about GM seeds? First and foremost, we don’t know the consequences to the human body over generational intake of GM food. In a study by Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov, hamsters were fed a GM soy diet, and by the third generation they were unable to reproduce, suffered higher mortality rates and slower growth as pups. Secondly, crop diversity is imperative. We are unable to predict what forms plant diseases will take in the future, and simply need to crack the history book and look at the Irish Potato Famine to see the effects of relying on a crop without diversity. Look through a catalogue of cannabis seeds and note that some are mould and mildew resistant, and some susceptible. Diversity ensures that we can have plants able to acclimate and evolve naturally to resist any diseases nature throws at them. Corporations are also developing so-called terminator seeds who’s fruit will not reproduce viable seeds, forcing farmers to buy seed stock from them every year.

We must resist our food and medicinal plants falling into the hands of corporations with the only ambition being profit rather than sustainability. As soon as a corporation controls our food and medicine/medicinal plants, they will control us.

[quote]“There can be no permanent agriculture without the permanence, diversity, and renewability of seed. Unlike industrial monocultures, permaculture depends on the co-operation between different species—plant and animals, perennial and annual.”
—Dr. Vandana Shiva[/quote]