Chef Dan Barber, in praise of open seeds in The New York Times

“Today, just four giant companies control more than 60 percent of all the world’s seed sales”. The New York Times published last Friday an article by Dan Barber, chef and food activist, where he strongly advocates the biodiversity of seeds and the right -almost the duty- to keep them free of patents. He also explains the evolution of the seed market in the last centuries, he speaks loud and clear against the concentration in the seed market, he explains what its risks are and proposes to support the initiatives of open source seeds, such as Bioleft.

His point of view is exactly the one we aim to support from Bioleft. For example, he describes the jail that agribusiness implies for biodiversity: “The agriculture operating instructions are embedded in the seed.The type of seed also dictates the fertilizer, pesticide and fungicide regimen, sold by the same company as part of the package, requiring a particular planter and sprayer.It is as if the seed is a toy that comes with a mile-long list of component parts you’re required to purchase to make it function properly. We think that the behemoths of agribusiness known as Big Food control the food system from up high — distribution, processing and the marketplace muscling everything into position. But really it is the seed that determines the system, not the other way around.”

He also recognize the efforts of a variety of actors who are working to resist this uniformation: (…) “Today’s food culture is experiencing a tectonic shift as the rebellious stakeholders of our modern food movement — farmers, independent retailers, nutritionists, educators, chefs and ever-more-informed eaters — upend the marketplace. Their work is like those points in a Seurat painting, dizzyingly complex, but coordinated in impact.”

Barber mentions the place of open source seeds initiatives like Bioleft. He talks about Dr. Irwin Goldman, one of the persons who inspired us: “The movement is buttressed, too, by organizations like the Open Source Seed Initiative, which Dr. Goldman helped found to ´free the seed.´ It’s created a new bastion of open source seeds, safeguarded from patents and other restrictions”. That is exactly our aim: to help to prevent living material from being restricted by intellectual property laws.

Finally, Barber makes a very intense call for action: “These efforts need more than our support; they demand our participation, the same engagement with seeds that humans had for thousands of years. Seeds not as commodities but as a vital part of our cultural commons; seeds not as software, but as living systems: seeds as the source of a new food revolution.” Let’s participate.

The article is accompanied by beautiful data visualizations and photos. Here’s the complete version: