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As our global climate changes, farmers and gardeners will need to access seeds that are bred to succeed in conditions that may be drastically different from previous years. When you list seeds on the Global Seed Network you help build a diverse seed bank of unique plants and crops adapted to specific climates and conditions. This helps guarantee that each member will be able to find plants that will thrive in his or her production system, be it a small urban garden patch or a small, diversified farm.
The current paradigm of industrial monocultures has caused significant harms, including an overall loss of plant biodiversity. Plant varieties have diminished as small, local seed breeders have been replaced by large corporations that operate on a monoculture model. For centuries, farmers and plant breeders fostered a diverse array of germplasm by selecting for locally adapted varieties to thrive in unique soils, geographies, and climates. For example, the U.S. has lost 6,000 of 7,000 apple varieties that were formerly grown in local regions throughout the nation. Today, just two cultivars account for 50 percent of apple production. Most agricultural cultivars are derived from native, locally-adapted plants and depend on them as a source of new genes. Wild soybeans, tomatoes, wheat, coffee, and grapes are in particular danger of extinction. The loss of these hearty native varieties may lead to the extinction of common crops in the decades to come.
The irreversible damage to agriculture and food production due to climate change could have grave consequences for food security. In order to guarantee a secure food future, farmers and gardeners will need to adapt to climate uncertainties and will likely need to rely on plants and crops bred in conditions unlike those to which their current seeds have adapted. While our current climate trajectory is daunting, a future defined by food insecurity and climate chaos is not inevitable. The biotechnology industry hails genetic engineering as the solution to global food security. The advent of genetic engineering has expedited claims for seed patents and subsequently has become a gateway to controlling seed germplasm writ large. But, the single property conferred by the engineered gene that is the basis of such patents is only one among thousands of plant genes that confer properties like yield potential, seed size, time to maturity, disease resistance, drought tolerance, nutrition, and adaptations.
Beginning in the 1980s, large agrichemical companies such as Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow, and Bayer acquired scores of seed companies, buying up some of the highest-quality germplasm in the world. As of 2009, these five companies accounted for 58 percent of global commercial seed sales. The Independent Professional Seed Association estimated in 2009 that the number of independent seed companies had declined to just 100 from 300 in 1996. USDA economists have found that seed industry consolidation has reduced seed innovation and resulted in fewer crop varieties on offer. Consolidation of the domination of GE seed in commodity crops has made it increasingly difficult for farmers to access and purchase non-GE seeds. At stake is the availability of diverse, unique seeds that provide farmers and gardeners with
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