World's Seed Heritage at Risk

07/23/12 Robert Lorei
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Good morning, welcome to Radioactivity. I'm Rob Lorei. Coming up an interview with author Janisse Ray about her new book The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food. From the book's publicity release: "Part memoir, part botany primer, part political manifesto…[by which] even couch potatoes will be enthralled," (Publishers Weekly, starred review) Ray's informed and impassioned plea on behalf of seeds—and therefore our future food—is compelling and vitally important.


Their impact on our lives cannot be overstated. Through the plants to which they give rise, they sustain our very bodies. They allow us, as they did our ancestors thousands of years ago, to forego a nomadic existence and settle down, using the resulting “leisure time” to develop knowledge and cities, the arts and technology. Seeds carry with them the stories of this adventure, the wisdom of nature, and possibility.

But seeds are also endangered. Just a century ago, Americans were planting over 7,000 varieties. Today you’d find fewer than 450 were you to pour over seed catalogs. And of those, some have been patented and are owned by corporations, others are sterile and can’t be saved over for the next spring’s planting.

This loss of diversity and access to the very stuff of life is of growing concern to many. Enter Janisse Ray—gardener, seed saver, acclaimed poet and award-winning author. In TheSeed Underground, she offers facts sufficient to lead us to despair: corporate greed, monoculture, apathy, seed extinction. That’s the easy part. But Ray also shares the stories of gardeners and seed savers—transitioning from the margins to the mainstream—as they pull seeds and their histories back from the brink. She looks to cultivate in us each a gardener and a seed saver, trusting that along the way we can reclaim control of our food."

Janisse Ray joins us live via phone.

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