Photo by Dan Kraker/MPR News.
By Cat Johnson
Seed activists can put a mark in the win column. Recently, the city council in Duluth, Minnesota passed a resolution supporting seed saving and sharing in the city (see video below of the council meeting). They also requested changes in state seed law to allow seed sharing without cost or germination testing.
The resolution is in response to a crackdown that took place earlier this year when representatives of the Duluth Public Library’s seed sharing project were informed by a Minnesota Department of Agriculture seed inspector that they needed to comply with state seed laws, which include rigorous and cost-prohibitive testing of seeds. This is a growing issue for seed libraries and the seed movement. The resolution in Duluth, which is co-sponsored by council members Joel Sipress, Emily Larson and Sharla Gardner, and unanimously passed by the city council, models a common-sense solution, the key points of which are:
- The City Council of Duluth supports and encourages seed sharing between community members without legal barriers of labeling fees and germination testing
- The City Council of Duluth supports and encourages the Duluth Seed Library’s efforts to facilitate sharing of locally grown and saved seed
- The City Council of Duluth supports changes to the Minnesota Seed Law that support the sharing of seeds between individuals and through seed libraries by removing application of any labeling, testing, and permitting requirements to interpersonal or seed library seed sharing
- The City Council of Duluth seeks to work in cooperation with our state legislative delegation to achieve such changes to Minnesota Seed Law, which currently designate our Duluth Seed Library and Duluth citizens to be in violation
- The City of Council of Duluth requests that the city’s legislative delegation work to make such changes in the Minnesota Seed Law
In addition to municipal support for seed libraries, Minnesota State Senator Roger Reinert, representing St. Louis County where Duluth is, has expressed an interest in proposing legislation to change the seed law to exempt seed libraries.
Seed libraries and the seed law were also on the agenda for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's recent Seed Program Advisory Group meeting where seed library supporters made public comments urging the department to support seed libraries and support an exemption from the seed law.
And Minnesota is not alone. Legislators in Nebraska are considering proposing legislation that will exempt seed libraries from the state seed law.
Exempting seed libraries from seed law intended for commercial agricultural productions allows them to thrive without concern of breaking the law. This is a viable solution to move seed libraries out of legal grey areas and continue the creation of a healthy ecosystem of seed libraries. There are 390 seed libraries in the US and without exemption from seed laws that are designed to protect consumers from big agriculture, these grassroots seed sharing projects are in danger of being regulated out of existence.
Shareable is partnering with the Sustainable Economies Law Center to protect seed sharing including a petition urging state officials from across the U.S. to protect seed libraries. Shareable is creating resources and tools to help grow the seed sharing movement. Stay tuned!