In December of 2014, the following letter was sent to 68 farmers in Jefferson County, Washington. Fifty-two farmers responded to the letter by signing a safe seed pledge and vowing to not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants in our county. They have plowed the ground for safe seed in our landscape.
As of today, the farms and fields of our county have not been planted with genetically engineered seed...at least as far as we know. But, as more and more varieties are being created and offered to farmers as avenues for higher yields and increased efficiency, the possibility of them entering our soils will increase.
With the failure of food labeling initiatives, we see an opportunity to shift the action from the ballot box to the ethics of our farming community. We also see an opportunity to shift the effort from food to seed. In our opinion, no one is better at food, seed and action than farmers!
Like the labeling initiatives, the debate over genetically engineered seed has been polarizing, with both sides using science that can be convincing and conflicting. Because of this discord, we are proposing an alternative. This letter is from two Jefferson County farmers who want the Olympic Peninsula to remain free of genetically engineered seed. We believe that proponents of genetic engineering bear the burden of proof that their procedures are safe and socially acceptable. And until that proof is accepted by all, we believe the next step should be precautionary. Our concerns are heightened by the geography of the Olympic Peninsula, a landscape that is bountiful yet protected by mountains and waters on three sides. This isolation is “an ounce of prevention” that is “worth a pound of cure” in protecting our seed genetics.
Imagine a farmer, maybe your neighbor, who is tired of pulling weeds. He/she decides to try a seed variety that through genetic engineering can reduce weeding and/or pesticide use. Now, imagine that on three sides of her/his land are fellow farmers growing crops that could be influenced by a drift of pollen or seed. Two neighbors are certified organic growers, and the other is developing a climate-adapted seed. All of the farms could be negatively affected by that seed choice. We may have control over our soil and seed, but we cannot always control the wind, water and organisms that travel through it.
Farmers have always been the guardians of the genetic resources of food. If you are NOT planting genetically engineered seed, please share that with other farmers and the public. There is power in that sharing, and it may be even greater than any initiatives or state regulations.
One approach was created in 1999 when farmers, seed companies and The Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG) created The Safe Seed Pledge. It is a voluntary promise to not buy, sell or trade genetically engineered seeds or plants. It is not a legally binding document but a voluntary assurance that informs others of your farming principles. Since its origin more than 300 seed companies have signed the pledge and added their names to a seed resource list kept at the CRG website.
Both Solstice and Oatsplanter Farms are signing the Safe Seed Pledge. Although not certified, we use organic farming practices, do not plant genetically engineered seed, and want our customers to be informed. For us, it is a positive, good neighborly way to show our commitment to preserving the integrity of our Jefferson County food supply. This local pledge will start with Jefferson County farmers first, then grow to include local gardeners, landscapers, marketers and consumers on the Peninsula.
Join us in "plowing the ground" for a farming community free of genetically engineered seed.
Linda Davis, Solstice Farm Jadyne Reichner, Oatsplanter Farm
Chimacum, WA Port Townsend, WA