Some organic gardeners try to make a point of not purchasing seeds sold by Monsanto. For home gardeners, this often means knowing which varieties the company owns, and which seed catalogs sell Monsanto-owned seeds. Here are some tips for researching which products are owned by Monsanto.
There are plenty of good reasons to avoid Monsanto: Roundup, genetically-engineered beets, corn, and other crops, the fact that they sue farmers after their seeds (a monopoly of their own) contaminate the farmers' own fields, Agent Orange....we could go on and on.
We usually think of Monsanto in terms of commodity crops: corn, wheat, soy, etc. What some people may not realize is that Monsanto also now owns approximately 40% of the home garden vegetable seed market -- making them the largest seed company in the world. They bought the seed company Seminis in 2005, as well as several smaller companies. Seminis seeds are carried by many popular garden catalogs, including Burpee, Park Seed, Territorial Seeds, and Johnny's Selected Seeds. You can find more catalogs that sell Seminis seeds by checking out Seminis' website. Some companies, such as Johnny's, are phasing out Seminis seeds, and, in the meantime, labelling those seeds so consumers can avoid them if they choose to. Often, all you have to do is email or call a seed catalog and ask; they'll tell you whether the varieties you're interested in are Seminis/Monsanto products.
If you're trying to avoid giving Monsanto even one red cent of your money, and you're a gardener who plants seeds (or buys vegetable starts) it pays to know which varieties are making money for the company. A complete listing of which vegetable varieties Seminis grows can be found on their website. This list includes popular tomato varieties, such as 'Celebrity,' 'Early Girl,' and 'Better Boy,' as well as a host of other common home vegetable garden varieties.
What Can You Do?
1. Find out if your favorite seed catalog carries Monsanto-owned seeds. If so, they will be able to tell you which varieties they carry, so you can avoid them.
2. Patronize seed and catalog companies that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge. This is a voluntary pledge taken by some seed companies to ensure consumers that they do not knowingly sell GMO seeds. Most popular garden catalogs have taken this pledge, especially those companies that specialize in selling heirloom seeds.
3. Buy, plant, and save seeds from heirloom varieties. Seed Savers Exchange, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and Landreth's all specialize in heirlooms. There is a (better) heirloom option for all of the varieties Monsanto owns. It's just a matter of trying them out and finding your favorites -- not a bad way to spend a summer.
In general, if you're growing heirlooms, you're fine. If you are buying certified organic seeds, you can be absolutely sure that they are not GMO seeds. It's worth noting here that, at this time, there are no GMO seeds available to home gardeners. While this may change in the future, at this time avoiding Monsanto and Seminis is more about voting with your dollar as a consumer. This will be more of a concern for some organic gardeners than for others, and that's fine. We're not all the same, even if we do all call ourselves "organic gardeners." It's just something to consider, and if this is something that's important to you, I hope you've found the tips in this article helpful.