[permaculture] the evolution of lending libraries

Jason Gerhardt jasongerhardt at gmail.com
Sat Dec 4 00:18:14 EST 2010


You kind of open a big can of worms with your question about seed genetics.
 To keep it short, seed libraries will be most succesful if they have a
program to educate the members about how to properly save seed.  Cross
pollination would need to be focused on extensively.  Look at the Richmond,
CA Seed Library website for an example http://www.richmondgrows.org.  GMO's
are not much of an issue if these libraries take place in urban areas; GMO
seed is sold in huge quantity to large scale growers not to home gardeners.
 However, increasingly seed companies are finding GMO contamination within
even organic seed lots.  Large scale seed growers who are surrounded by
moncrop ag are bound to get GMO pollen drift especially of corn and beets
(and chard for that matter).  Avoiding GMO contamination in seed is a
challenge that we will unfortunately have to come to some terms with.
 Essentially there is no perfect pure seed out there for too long, and that
is true with or without GMO's.  Just like the saying "compost happens",
crossing happens.

I have adviced the CO seed library folks to institute a feedback system
where they evaluate the seed saving integrity of the members by growing out
the returned seed to check for crossing, germination rate, etc.  I'm also
not totally convinced that a seed library is an effective means to
distribute and reproduce seed, as the results remain to be seen.  It is
however, like most lending libraries, a fun project that educates, builds
community, and cultivates an appreciation for careful stewardship of shared
resources (especially true of our collectively cared for global seed


Hi Jason,

I think the lending library concept is a wonderful idea.  If I'm not
mistaken, this is a fairly common practice within many cohousing
communities, or at least that's my impression.  I spent this past summer
living at one, and they had adopted this practice.  Everyone I interacted
with just loved being able to walk over to the common workshop area and grab
what they needed.

However, at a lending library, if I were to check out a string trimmer (for
example), I can be pretty sure I'm getting a string trimmer (likewise for
any tool).  When it comes to seeds though, we are also dealing with...how
should I say it?..."genetic integrity."  A common phrase which many of us
have heard tossed around (especially at the farmers' market) is "know your
farmer."  With a certain level of interaction and "word of mouth," I feel
comfortable that the food I buy from them is "organic," or "non-GMO," etc.
 I'm curious to hear your (or anyone's) take on how I would achieve that
kind of comfort level when someone at a library hands me a sack of seed, and
I have no idea who grew the crops they came from.  What if the next door
neighbors' GMO pollen blew over the fence and crossed with the plants, or
the local pollinators did the dirty work, or some unscrupulous individual
affiliated with a national GMO seed giant walks in and "returns" some bag
 of "who-knows-what?"

In the discussions you've heard about this seed lending library idea, what
controls or checks have been explored to prevent something like this from
occuring...if any?


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