The following was written by Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener – https://themicrogardener.com it is on my blog with permission.
The safety of our organic seed is at risk and we need YOUR help. We deserve the right to eat, grow and buy safe seeds, but our government is planning on mandatory chemical treatment of many organic varieties of imported seeds. Incredibly, 98% of Australia’s vegetable seed is from overseas and the variety of vegetable seed cultivars we have access to now, is at risk of significantly reducing.
First it was organic rockmelon seeds and now Brassica seeds are at risk. Soon, other plant families are to follow.
Please read and sign this petition. Every voice makes a difference. If you're not already, please start saving your seeds. Thanks for your help. Let's get the word out. We only have until 19 April.
Petition link: http://bit.ly/2FGSaVH
Biocontrol IS important and the last thing we want is to bring in high risk fungal diseases and pests that don’t exist in this country yet. However, the proposed chemical treatment of organic varieties of fruit, vegetable and herb seeds is the concern. The government is not making this proposed treatment public. It’s just quietly on their website. What we need to encourage is education so people know what is happening and raise their voice to request other organic solutions be implemented rather than just fungicide treatments of organic seeds. The fall out will be both in the short and long term that we won’t have any more organic seed varieties coming into the country. If they are tested and found to have a pest or disease risk, they will be treated.
This wouldn't even be an issue if we had enough gardeners seed saving here in Australia because we wouldn't need to import seeds. In a healthy ecosystem, there are biological predators and beneficial microbes that suppress and control such problems. i.e. maintain a healthy balance.
Based on the Dept of Ag Draft Review, the imported seed varieties listed do appear to carry a risk for sure. Frances Michaels, CEO of Green Harvest Organic Gardening Supplies who started the petition says the government should offer an organic alternative to mandatory fungicide treatment, such as seed testing. There could also be other ways to avoid pests being imported into the country such as treatment with diatomaceous earth which dessicates pest insects on contact. Whilst the government has an important job to do with biosecurity, they need to provide solutions for everyone who wants the right to eat, grow and sell certified organic seeds.
In the meantime, you may want to source the seed varieties they are looking to fumigate and start growing these to save yourself, so if they are chemically treated in the future, at least you have a supply to continue growing. It's actually going to affect many plant families, so our diversity is at threat.
There is a lot of information on the Dept of Ag site. What I've discovered though is that they are considering fumigating not just many of the brassica family seed varieties, but they have already done review papers which recommend doing the same to some of the other plant family groups.
These links should be a good place to start:
This link shows they intend to allow methyl bromide as a suitable fumigant despite it being banned in many other countries. That’s really worrying. From my research, toxic fumigants used (including methyl bromide which is banned in many countries but not here - go figure), leaves residues on the seeds and some absorb more pesticides and chemicals than others. The withholding periods are a long time and research papers discuss safety concerns and tolerance levels for humans and animals.
If you read a bit more about the fumigation processes, it helps you understand this better and make an informed decision. Here are a couple of links to dig into:
Many people think food will always be available but most food is grown from seed. What we don't have here in large quantities, small Aussie businesses import. Many support local growers and that's fantastic but it's a numbers game. I first started saving seeds as part of a seed saving group in 2009 and ran classes to help educate home gardeners on how easy it is to save seeds. We don't have enough home gardeners saving their own. If we each saved our own vegetable and herb seeds, there'd be no need to buy them. They'd also be more resilient because they adapt to our own soils and climate conditions. Anyone can buy or grow organic food, collect the seeds, dry and store them correctly and it's a start.
One of the problems is that no one in reality can save every variety of seed unless they have a lot of space and are very dedicated and have all the seed stock to start with. There are all sorts of issues like cross-pollination, varieties that prefer different climates/soil temps etc. So, sustainability really starts in ALL our back yards not relying on others to save seeds for us, so we can buy the same packets every year.
Most farmers have their work cut out for them just growing the food and getting it to market/retail outlets. It's long hours and hard work. Few I know have time to seed save. They order trays of seedlings ready for planting from other growers mostly. Those growers order seeds from seed companies and the seed companies have to buy from seed savers!
Whilst we can't all grow every vegie in our own back yards, we CAN learn to seed save or propagate the organic and heirloom varieties we DO grow. Then swap with our neighbours, friends and local gardeners or via seed saver groups and networks. If we just choose 2-3 plants to save and then share seeds into a pool with others, swapping for what we need, then it's a win-win. This preserves the viability of locally adapted seeds and encourages resilient plants that grow well in each microclimate.
I also buy heirloom/organic seeds from interstate and after a couple of seasons of growing them in my garden, they begin to develop more resilient characteristics. I choose the best ones and save those so year after year, my garden improves. This is a BIG and fun topic and a skill every gardener should have!
Article in the newspaper:
This article has a list of a lot of the organic and heirloom seed companies around Australia if you're wondering where to source seeds from. Organised state by state.
Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener – https://themicrogardener.com