An Important Victory for Our Movement:
Johnny's Seeds signs "Safe Seed Pledge"
by Brian Tokar
Johnny's Selected Seeds, based in Albion, Maine, has pledged to not
knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds. Johnny's was
earlier this year year by anti-biotech activists in the Northeast, under
the umbrella of NERAGE (Northeast Resistance Against Genetic
for publishing a statement in their 1999 seed catalog suggesting that
might offer genetically engineered varieties in the future. The company
received many hundreds of letters from its regular customers and other
concerned individuals suggesting that Johnny's had severely damaged its
reputation as a supplier to organic growers in the region. Several
growers in New England said they would not buy from Johnny's until they
took a firm stand against the use of genetically engineered seeds.
Johnny's is one of eight companies in New England, and 40 in the U.S.
Canada, to sign onto the Safe Seed Initiative, a project launched by
heirloom seed grower Tom Stearns (High Mowing Organic Seeds, Wolcott,
Vermont), with the assistance of Vermont-NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming
Association) and the Boston-based Council for Responsible Genetics. The
Initiative's pledge states, in part:
>For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners, and
>consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not
>knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The
>mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive
>methods and between genera, families, or kingdoms, poses great
>biological risks as well as economic, political, and cultural threats.
>feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently
>tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary
>to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds.
>Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to
>soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems, and, ultimately,
>people and communities.
Johnny's also advertises that it stands by its January 1999 press
statement, which states in part:
>While we are not fundamentally against GE technology, we intend to
>continue to scrutinize the science and the resulting plant varieties.
>urge the scientific and regulatory communities to do the same. Critical
>this scrutiny are mechanisms to assure that commercialization of new GE
>crops is preceded by sufficiently deliberate and thorough study of
>environmental and health impact.
Other regional companies that have signed the pledge are Fedco Seeds
(Maine), Cook's Garden (Vermont), Butterbrooke Farm (Connecticut), Zwann
Seeds (Vermont) and the seed saving networks in Maine and Western
Northeast Resistance Against Genetic Engineering