The Great Seed Festival: let’s prevent the corporate takeover of our seeds

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Posted Sep 30 2014 by Helen Strong of the Gaia Foundation

Our entire lives depend on seed. Almost all of the food we eat starts out as a seed – from the vegetables, fruits and roots we grow, to the bread we bake, the milk we make and even our meat, which comes primarily from animals that live on food grown from seed. Despite the central role seed plays in our daily existence, we seldom recognise its importance and that it is coming under increasing threat both here in the UK and globally.

That is why this October, events will be taking place across the UK to celebrate an overlooked, but critically important part of our food system: the humble seed. TheGreat Seed Festival – the first of its kind – is being held to recognise and celebrate the importance of seed from the pip to the plate. 

Festival events will take place across the country throughout the month, and over the weekend of the 10th – 12th October, London will play host to a hub of free activities including chocolate making workshops, seed bomb building and a seed themed feast at The Garden Museum on the bank of the Thames in Lambeth. Through workshops, art, talks, storytelling and film aimed at all ages, the festival will bring together audiences to understand why seed is so vital in our everyday lives, and why we should be protecting it. 

The Great Seed Festival is an exciting collaboration between food justice organisations, artists, farmers, growers and chefs, all coming together to inspire audiences and highlight the connection between seed and food. October is the perfect time for the Festival because it’s harvest time, Food Sovereignty Month and takes in World Food Day on the 16th, when we will be offering a very special Feast curated by Moro-trained chef, Alice Parr and set designer, Alice Hodge.

Despite the central role seed plays in our daily existence, we seldom recognise its importance and that it is coming under increasing threat both here in the UK and globally. We want to change this and get more people engaged in securing the future of our food.

Lawrence Woodward from Beyond GM commented: “Today the majority of seeds that provide our food are controlled by just a handful of global corporations. As a result our health and our environment is being undermined and the chance of providing healthy food for all in a fair and just way is being taken from us. For the sake of future generations it is imperative that we work to secure a sustainable food system that is beyond corporate control, beyond techno-fixes like GMOs and beyond the obsession with short term profit. Saving seeds, understanding and nurturing them, as well as liberating their diversity is vital.”

Liz Hosken from The Gaia Foundation added: “The seeds the corporations don’t yet control are now under threat from policies that seek to stop us from sowing, growing and exchanging them; practices that farmers and gardeners have carried out for thousands of years. We stand to not only lose our rights to share and save seeds, but also the genetic diversity which supports diverse farming systems, farmers’ resilience to climate change and our varied nutritional needs. Now is the time for us all to send a message to those who want to take seed from us, and to support those who understand the magic of seed and work to protect it. “

Contact: For tickets and more information, please contact me:

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 0207 428 0055

Mobile: 07725 800 321

The Great Seed Festival website: http://www.greatseedfestival.co.uk

The Great Seed Festival has been coordinated by:

The Gaia Foundation works internationally to restore cultural and biological diversity. For almost 30 years Gaia has been accompanying local partners and communities to reclaim and revive their seed, water and food sovereignty.

Beyond GM is a new, independent initiative in the UK. Its aim is to revitalise GM campaigning and re-engage the public with an issue that directly affects their daily lives, their health and well-being.

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The London Freedom Seed Bank is a network of London growers, growing seed organically in their gardens, farms and allotments and donating a proportion of that seed to the London Freedom Seed Bank in order to protect and sustain the diversity of seed that is useful to London growers.

The Heritage Seed Library aims to conserve and make available vegetable varieties, mainly of European varieties, that are not widely available. 

UK Food Group is the network of around 50 development, environment, farmer and academic groups in the UK working on global food and farming issues.

The idea for the Great Seed Festival came out of a meeting with these groups, along with Editor of Resurgence and Ecologist Magazine, Satish Kumar and Dr. Vandana Shiva at a gathering at Sheepdrove Farm, Berkshire in 2013.

Recognising the increasing threat to seed (such as the potential changes in EU seed laws that would reduce the number of seed varieties available, damage biodiversity and drive small seed merchants out of business; the current Transatlantic Trade Partnership and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the EU and the USA; and the rapid decline in global seed diversity), but also the inspiring growth in the organic and local food movements in the UK, those gathered at Sheepdrove felt that this was the time to bring seed to the fore, drawing out the link between seed and our food system and to celebrate seed through a festival.

October is a potent time for the festival to take place. Not only is it harvest season in the UK, but it is also UK Food Sovereignty Month and World Food Day on the 16th October. In Europe, the new European Parliament will be reconvening after the European elections, making this a strategic time to alert the new MEPs to the threats to seed and our food system.

Now is the time for society to send a message to those who want to take seed from us, and to support those farmers, growers and gardeners who support seed diversity and produce food in a life-enhancing and ecological way.

Further Details on the London Programme in October 2014:

Tuesday 7th – Charles Eisenstein talk at Cecil Sharp House, Camden, 7pm – 9.30pm. “Seed and the Economy of Gift”. Tickets £6/9

Charles Eisenstein is a speaker and writer focusing on themes of human culture and identity. He is the author of several books, most recently Sacred Economics and The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible.

The talk will explore the privatisation of seeds as part of a much more general trend: the conversion of life and the planet into money. Charles will describe how our economic system drives this trend, how this system rests on an even deeper “story of the world,” and how that story is disintegrating in our time. The movement to bring seeds back into the commons is part of a new story, a transformation in our relationship to the planet, and a revolution in our sense of self.

Friday 10th – London Premiere of GMO OMG , Garden Museum, 6.30 – 10.30.Hosted by Beyond GM. Tickets £6/8

The London Premiere of the American documentary follows a father of three as he travels the country to find out what impact the GM foods is children eat is having on their health and their environment. The film will be followed by a panel discussion about the issues the film raises. The ticket price also includes a delicious buffet of organic food and drink.

Saturday 11th – (10am – 3pm) & Sunday 12th (10am – 5pm). The Great Seed Festival, Garden Museum, Lambeth. Free Entry, workshops on first come, first-served basis

A host of groups and organisations will be present at the Garden Museum over the weekend of 11th and 12th October to present a varied programme of workshops, talks, craft activities, stories and more.

Capital Growth, Food Growing Schools London, Rococo Chocolates, the Gaia Foundation, Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library, the UK Food Group, Dusty Knuckle Bakery, the Soil Association, Beyond GM, Slow Food London, World Development Movement, and many more from the UK’s diverse food movement will be taking part, so whether you know nothing at all about seed or are an expert seed saver yourself, this is the place to be to learn about seed, get hands on with it, and join in the celebration of the seeds that feed us!

Saturday 11th October – The London Freedom Seed Bank Festival. 5pm – 11.30pm, Battersea Barge, SW8 5BP. Free Entry – donations welcome

The London Freedom Seed Bank’s annual celebration of their trained seed savers will take place on the Saturday evening aboard the Battersea Barge to follow on from the activities at the Garden Museum. All are welcome to attend – entry is free with a suggested donation upon arrival.

Featuring talks from Tim Macartney, founder of Embercombe – an organization that encourages people to actively contribute to a socially just, environmentally stable way, and Jane Rabinowicz, Director of the Seed Security Initiative from USC Canada – a non-profit international development organization with a seed and food programme promoting long-term food security for marginal farming communities. There will also be music from KMT, Vibe Machine and celidh band, The Muckers.

Wednesday 15th  Sustaining the seeds that feed us: impact of UK, EU and global policies hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Agroecology, Houses of Parliament, Westminster, 4pm – 6pm 

On the eve of World Food Day, this meeting will explore the range of policies, agreements and laws that impact on the diversity of the seeds that feed us. It will consider the positive effects that progressive seed policies can have on the availability of quality seeds well adapted to local food needs and ecologies as well as the potential for damage from policies that are poorly thought through. It will also describe the influence of UK decision makers on establishing norms for seed policies worldwide and highlight actions that could be taken to sustain the diversity of the seeds and wider biodiversity that is essential to secure future food.

Speakers include: Ben Raskin – Head of Horticulture at the Soil Association and leads their advocacy on EU seed policy; Patrick Mulvany – Patrick is closely involved in negotiations on the International Seed Treaty, the Convention on Biodiversity and FAO’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and is a leading expert on agricultural biodiversity; Land Workers’ Alliance is a member organisation of La Via Campesina, the global network of smallscale food producers, and campaigns for better seed polices at home and in Europe, including the realisation of Farmers’ Rights. (Speaker tbc).

Thursday 16th – The Great Seed Feast at the Garden Museum, 7.30pm – 11pm. £50 – includes a welcome drink, 4-course meal, and wine.

Bringing out the connection between seed and food through a sumptuous four-course meal, this one-off pop-up dining event, curated by The Art of Dining promises to bring The Great Seed Festival programme at the Garden Museum to a spectacular, full-stomached close.