Department of Agriculture cracks down on seed libraries

2014-07-31T19:15:00Z 2014-12-22T12:53:32Z Department of Agriculture cracks down on seed librariesBy Naomi Creason, The Sentinel The Sentinel
July 31, 2014 7:15 pm  • 

CARLISLE — It was a letter officials with the Cumberland County Library System were surprised to receive.

The system had spent some time working in partnership with the Cumberland County Commission for Women and getting information from the local Penn State Ag Extension office to create a pilot seed library at Mechanicsburg’s Joseph T. Simpson Public Library.

The effort was a new seed-gardening initiative that would allow for residents to “borrow” seeds and replace them with new ones harvested at the end of the season.

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Mechanicsburg’s effort had launched on April 26 as part of the borough’s Earth Day Festival, but there were plenty of similar efforts that had already cropped up across the state before the local initiative.

Through researching other efforts and how to start their own, Cumberland County Library System Executive Director Jonelle Darr said Thursday that no one ever came across information that indicated anything was wrong with the idea. Sixty residents had signed up for the seed library in Mechanicsburg, and officials thought it could grow into something more.

That was, until, the library system received a letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture telling them they were in violation of the Seed Act of 2004.

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“We did talk to the county extension office before establishing the seed library,” Darr told Cumberland County commissioners at their meeting Thursday morning. “We were never apprised of the Seed Act.”

The commissioners were equally flabbergasted by the change of events, as well as with how the agriculture department handled the investigation — sending a high-ranking official and lawyers to a meeting with the library.

Darr explained that the Seed Act primarily focuses on the selling of seeds — which the library was not doing — but there is also a concern about seeds that may be mislabeled (purposefully or accidentally), the growth of invasive plant species, cross-pollination and poisonous plants.

The department told the library it could not have the seed library unless its staff tested each seed packet for germination and other information. Darr said that was clearly not something staff could handle.

“This is not our core mission,” she said. “We thought we were doing a good thing in helping the Cumberland County Commission for Women (who requested the idea and the library’s participation).”

Darr said she believes the library system’s proximity to Harrisburg, as well as media coverage of the seed library, prompted the Department of Agriculture to act in this case.

She said the department indicated to her that it would continue to crack down on seed libraries that have established themselves in the state.

Some of the commissioners questioned whether that was the best use of the department’s time and money, but commissioner Barbara Cross noted that such seed libraries on a large scale could very well pose a danger.

“Agri-terrorism is a very, very real scenario,” she said. “Protecting and maintaining the food sources of America is an overwhelming challenge ... so you’ve got agri-tourism on one side and agri-terrorism on the other.”

Cross said it made sense that the department would want to tackle the issue now while the efforts were small.

Though the seed library is no longer an option, Darr said the department has left it open to the library to host “seed swap” days where private individuals can meet and exchange seeds. As long as the library system itself is not accepting seeds as donations, Darr said such an event would meet the requirements of the act.

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(30) Comments

  1. DavidR
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    DavidR - December 28, 2014 2:19 pm
    Clean out GOVERNMENT, not the seed bank! Then, clean MONSANTO out of our lives, too! Pay attention, Pennsylvanian voters! Whatever "Ag Department" bureaucrat(s) came up with this should be FIRED, immediately, at the demand of the voting public!
  2. Weezer5
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    Weezer5 - September 13, 2014 1:17 am
    AThis is a outrage..This also looking like another Monsanto{ & other big gmo producers} plan to remove all real organic & natural seeds from the hands of the American population. Every day we are force fed this gmo poison and every day we become moor infused with chemicals never intended or approved for human consumption.Out food chain is collapsing because of this bad science & our world is sick. soil, air and water are at record levels of this toxic poison. It is killing us,& the pollinators
  3. skmcw
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    skmcw - September 06, 2014 4:25 pm
    “Agri-terrorism is a very, very real scenario,” she said. “Protecting and maintaining the food sources of America is an overwhelming challenge

    I would submit that Monsanto and its practices are the real agri-terrorists to be alarmed about.
  4. Druidclark
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    Druidclark - August 10, 2014 11:28 pm
    Completely ridiculous.
  5. YourEG
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    YourEG - August 09, 2014 12:13 pm
    I appreciate this comment very much!
  6. YourEG
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    YourEG - August 09, 2014 12:42 am

    This story by Naomi is a followup http://cumberlink.com/news/agriculture/pa-department-backs-seed-library-protocol-as-reaction-grows/article_d3acf6fc-1cf2-11e4-adf9-0019bb2963f4.html I am looking forward to events at the Simpson Seed Library inspiring a national conversation on Seed Saving, and GMO education.. Many of the points at the link are important.
  7. Newtville
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    Newtville - August 07, 2014 7:16 pm
    I wonder when the DoAg SWAT team will swoop down on the seed librarian.
  8. eels2010
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    eels2010 - August 06, 2014 11:02 am
    Absolutely. These companies don't even want farmers cleaning seeds and using them the next year, let alone having a library. How would Monsanto ever deal with people who don't have to pay for genetically altered seeds every year??? This all about protecting industry.
  9. jmarkham
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    jmarkham - August 05, 2014 11:46 pm
    Monsanto .. 'nuff said.
  10. centercut
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    centercut - August 04, 2014 6:48 pm
    @Malachias - This is a Pennsylvania State Law also known as Act 164. It is NOT a federal law, and it is NOT the federal department of agriculture enforcing it. Harrisburg, not Washington. Some other "news outlets" are reporting this as federal, but they are incorrect.

  11. otis
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    otis - August 04, 2014 6:19 pm
    hit govco where it hurts and scream "WAR ON WOMEN!"... seriously.
  12. Booklady Librarian
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    Booklady Librarian - August 04, 2014 5:23 pm
    Regarding the comment, "Big seed companies have money and I'm sure they aren't very happy to learn about all these seed libraries and swaps taking place all over." I don't think this is an issue since we get most of our donations from these seed companies. If they didn't likethe existence of seed libraries, why would they help us out? Our little library in Colorado has a seed library that's very popular and staff really do nothing. It's run by a non-profit group and they do the quality control.
  13. Iowa Farmboy
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    Iowa Farmboy - August 04, 2014 3:51 pm
    Agri-terrorism=Monsanto and GMO's. Control the seeds and water, and you control the world.
  14. Malachias
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    Malachias - August 04, 2014 3:24 pm
    How is it possible that the "Seed Act of 2004" which is a law from India not America is even being evoked here? I have googled the crap out of the "Seed Act of 2004" and all that comes up is India. Can someone please explain this to me? I am a disabled veteran who uses gardening as a for of self therapy. I save my own seeds and use them in gardens that I build for other people. I was even looking to start packaging them and re-selling from what I harvest. So I ask with respect, please explain!
  15. David Matthews
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    David Matthews - August 04, 2014 3:23 pm
    obviously this is reeking of monsanto influence. the crime is against these honest people who are concerned about saving and perpetuating their seed. monsanto is about owning seed and controlling food and selling their disease-causing glyphosate/roundup under the guise of gmo crops. to add more post 9-11 fear based on a false flag / inside job by our government does not work with the informed (ae911truth.org.....pilotsfor911truth.org).
  16. Wal22nut
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    Wal22nut - August 04, 2014 1:55 pm
    I'm yet to see how anything described in the library's intent or practice could be construed as any sort of 'agri-terrorism'. Wha,t do they think some nefarious character is going to deliberately mis-mark an invasive seed, hoping an unsuspecting gardener will pick it up, plant it, and it will intermingle with our local produce? Seriously? Far better to spend ag legislative $ researching honeybee colony collapse or legislatively controlling Monsanto's cross-pollination chokehold on farmers.
  17. w wohler
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    w wohler - August 03, 2014 11:19 am
    @ theBuckWheat

    Don't we need warning labels for Government?

    And speaking of "terrorism" - what about contemporary governments' tool-of-choice - isn't the the fear of the power they throw around, just a (usually) lower-intensity, but still highly corrosive, form of terrorism?
  18. livibosch
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    livibosch - August 02, 2014 9:13 pm
    Hmm... let's get this straight. They are closing independent organic farms via SWAT teams (which includes the slaughter of livestock). They are dumping raw 'healthy' milk on the ground after they seize it (via force) and now they are confiscating seeds?
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't that leave us with only GMO's and artificial foods? If I were un-trusting I might think this was being done on purpose to complete a villainous plot............................ Surely, not OUR Governmen
  19. farmrchrys
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    farmrchrys - August 02, 2014 2:24 pm
    I think those folks from the state Dept. of Ag are dead wrong. I just went to the USDA AMS website (this is the agency that enforces the Federal Seed Act) and it clearly states: "The Federal Seed Act regulates the interstate shipment of agricultural and vegetable seeds." Unless there's a state version of the act that they were enforcing (which would be just as stupid), it's obvious the seed library is not engaged in interstate commerce.
  20. msarro
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    msarro - August 02, 2014 12:11 pm
    These strong arm tactics brought to you by our Corporate Congressional Sponsors Monsanto and DuPont.

    Seriously though, Corbett won't fund our schools, but he'll put money behind this? What a freaking shill. Most invasive species spread via rhizome and not seed.
  21. mommyofpepper
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    mommyofpepper - August 02, 2014 10:42 am
    I don't know that this has anything to do with terrorism of any kind rather with money. They can hide behind the word terrorism but not behind "but we want our donation money." Big seed companies have money and I'm sure they aren't very happy to learn about all these seed libraries and swaps taking place all over.
  22. bcliff
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    bcliff - August 02, 2014 7:28 am
    Seed racists, are alive and well in Cumberland County! Whose to say which is the 'master' seed? Next we'll mate seeds which can't germinate.
  23. Slothb77
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    Slothb77 - August 02, 2014 7:01 am
    Clearly our government isn't big enough.
  24. sitaifun
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    sitaifun - August 01, 2014 4:31 pm
    The DOA should take the money they are wasting by "cracking down" on seed banks and just do the testing themselves. Centralzing that effort would make it inexpensive. They should be cracking down on the agri-terrorism GMO seeds put out by Monsanto and other chemical companies.
  25. FormerBulldog
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    FormerBulldog - August 01, 2014 1:16 pm
    Terrorism via invasive plants is laughable. This is a simple case of yet more big-government overreach that they think is justifiable in a post-9/11 world.

    If the PA Dept of Agriculture thinks this is important enough, and has enough time and resources to put into frivolous enforcement, then there should be enough money to cull from their budget and shift to the supporting the Library system's ability to test these seeds.
  26. moussetaffy
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    moussetaffy - August 01, 2014 1:08 pm
    Is "agri-terrorism" the primary reason this legislation was passed, or was this an ALEC-sponsored move by Big Ag? Seems to me Monsanto has more skin in this game than terrorists, to deny people such access to free seeds. How can I research this topic?
  27. DaWeezil
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    DaWeezil - August 01, 2014 12:12 pm
    Agri-terrorism? Or is this just BIG agri-business getting the gov't to control seed sources. Remember, you can produce raw milk but NOT sell cheese. Not a law made by SMALL farmers.
  28. JT Thomas
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    JT Thomas - August 01, 2014 12:09 pm
    This has to be one of the most ridiculous activities of a state government. Likely the seed companies have a hand in this...if the publishing industry did this, we wouldn't have public libraries or lending libraries of any kind!
  29. theBuckWheat
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    theBuckWheat - August 01, 2014 10:58 am
    Send heavy handed and thuggish bureaucrats when just requiring a warning label would do.

    When government can create near-infinite amounts of money out of thin air, it buys near-infinite government, part of which is near-infinite bureaucracy which has no constraints on the things it seeks to regulate and people to should control.

    For the sake of our children we must reduce the ability of government to create more money than taxpayers want it to have.
  30. voice of reason
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    voice of reason - August 01, 2014 10:51 am
    It's completely inappropriate to be using terms like "agri-terrorism" when talking about seed libraries. Food security is a problem, yes, but that stems from companies like Monsanto that seek short-term profit and results rather than long-term food system wellness. Seed libraries, if anything, counter the threat of "agri-terrorists" by promoting the art of seed saving in the face of intellectual property/bio-patenting laws. Shame on Commissioner Cross for such fear mongering over seed saving.
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