The JTEL Board of Directors met last night to discuss HB197; legislation regarding Seed Libraries, and is opposed to the specifics of the pending legislation. Here is a brief history and the reasons that we are opposed:
History: The USDA (Dept. of Agriculture) Federal Seed Act and Alaska Administrative Code 11 AAC 34.075 prohibit the sale and/or bartering of non-commercial seeds unless they have been properly labeled and tested. Several states, including California, have enacted laws that exempt small seed exchanges and/or libraries from such cumbersome regulations. HB197 is trying to do so in Alaska.
Reasons for opposition: While we are not opposed to the intent of the proposed legislation, we are opposed to the specifics, namely:
- The Division of Natural Resources would administer this program, not local entities
- The proposed legislation only allows 100 grams per person per year per variety of seed. Does that mean we will have to track names, addresses, quantity of seed, etc. for DNR, and therefore potentially violate rights of privacy for our recipients?
- 100 grams is a lot for small seeds, but what about seed potatoes and/or bulbs? One or more of these types of seeds will easily exceed the 100 grams limit.
- Labeling with name of seed, donor’s name and address, year of packaging, weight and the wording “Not authorized for commercial use and not classified, graded or inspected by the State of Alaska” are required labels for every seed packet that may be bartered/exchanged under the proposed legislation. The requirements to include home address infringes on the privacy of donors and may deter individuals.
- The language refers to sellers instead of donors and refers to the year seed was packaged for sale – neither of which are appropriate references for donors and freely traded seeds.
- Seeds must be from plants grown in-state. Thus, out of state donations of seed, which we have obtained in the past both from other seed libraries and from individuals who have harvested from their previous residences, are prohibited.
- Restricting donations to in-state seeds also jeopardizes one of the compelling reasons for having seed libraries in the first place: protection of seed varieties and global access to food sources. The regular exchange of seeds among communities and peoples has allowed crops to adapt to different conditions, climates and topographies. This is what has allowed farming to spread and grow and feed the world with a diversified diet. It is critical to global food security to continue to trade seeds through other seed libraries and exchange programs.
- Only untreated seeds are allowed, which is an understandable desire, but it is not reasonable to expect a seed library to be able to certify that this requirement is being met, which would make it nearly impossible to accept any seed donations.
- There is no protective clause, ie: what happens if a seed library inadvertently violates a provision?
Talking points for letters and/or comments to your legislators:
- The intent of the proposed legislation is good
- The restrictions on labeling and weight should be deleted or modified to protect privacy and make exception for heavier seeds, bulbs, tubers or seed potatoes.
- Restrictions on in-state seeds should be deleted
- Restrictions on untreated seeds should be deleted
- References to donors as sellers and seeds packaged for sales should be modified to reflect donors or donations, not sellers or sales
- Add a protective clause, such as: “For purposes of this section, anyone determined to be engaging in noncommercial seed sharing shall not be subject to the criminal prosecution or monetary fines for violations of any other section of this chapter.”
The bill is up for public comment today from 1:00-3:00 PM. You can either call in for teleconferencing at 1-844-586-9085, or go to the Sadler’s Building (1292 Sadler Way, Suite 308) for in-person comments (they prefer this method, as the phone connection is better). For others around the state, the Legislative Information Offices has phone and email contact info here. There are several other bills on the agenda, so if you have a speaker phone and can listen in, then speak when called upon, that is best.
Thank you to all who can lend their voice to the opposition of this legislation. The future of the seed library in Ester and around the State thank you!