Thursday, March 11, 2010

Seeds of Greed and Stupidity

The Survival Seed Bank is certainly getting its moment in the sun. Maybe with a little water it will bear some fruit, but I think it's doubtful.

Their ad during the Glenn Beck show got picked up on BoingBoing on Tuesday, then last night was ridiculed on the Colbert Report.

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Surival Seed Bank's website was actually set up in 2008, back when we were experiencing the highest food prices on record, driven partly by the corn ethanol market. It's classic fear-mongering:
You don't have to be an Old Testament prophet to see what's going on all around us. A belligerent lower class demanding handouts. A rapidly diminishing middle class crippled by police state bureaucracy. An aloof, ruling elite that has introduced us to an emerging totalitarianism which seeks control over every aspect of our lives.... If you don't have the ability to grow your own food next year, your life may be in danger.
And what's the answer to this impending crisis? A can full of vacuum-sealed seeds, priced at somewhere around 200-300 percent over their value. (22 varieties of seed for $149 = $6.77 per variety.) They actually say "If you purchased these same seeds 'retail' you could very well pay over $600, if you can even find them. That makes the Survival Seed Bank package a ridiculous bargain." You could pay any amount retail; that doesn't mean you would, or anyone is actually charging that amount.

These aren't just any seeds, no sir. They're "open pollinated... super seeds, grown by small, fiercely independent farmers." The site goes on to say, "It's been very difficult to acquire high quality, open pollinated seeds lately." The seeds were "Grown in remote plots, far from the prying eyes of the big hybrid seed companies..."

Now, I'm all for open-pollinated seeds and therefore the ability to save seeds from year to year, but this sales copy makes it sound like it's some kind of secret technology that's hard to get. You can buy open-pollinated seeds many places, including Seed Savers Exchange, whose copy the Survival Seed Bank is obviously quoting in at least two places (for the Druzba tomato and the Jimmy Nardello pepper).

The comments from the BoingBoing post are well worth reading. Here are a few, including mine:

DaughterNumberThree • #2
Funny how their promo copy says "Remember, non-hybrid seeds can be grown practically anywhere and have the ability to assimilate mineral and trace elements from the soil that man made plants just don't seem to have. That's because they were created by God as we read in Genesis" -- when what they're selling are varieties developed by farmers over the years. God didn't make cabbage, people did. [I'm referring to the fact that cabbage, as well as broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, collards and many other plants are all human-created variations of the same much-less-edible species.]

mgfarrelly • #7
Seriously, the notion of the panicked residents of, as Roger Ebert perfectly coined it, Beckistan, digging up their chemically leached suburban backyards when "THE HOUR" strikes and trying to grow enough corn to keep the family fed is...sad.

Gutierrez • #13
Seeds? Gardens? I thought we'd be moving straight back to hunter-gatherer societies. I would think field guides to edible plants and animals would be even more valuable than some piddly can of seeds. Besides, cultivating a plot requires you to be stationary. That makes it easier for the death panels to find you.

Blaine • #14
Yes. Nothing will protect your family during "End of Days" but a fucking produce section, in your front yard, like a giant neon sign saying "KILL US WE HAVE FOOD".

Stefan Jones • #18
I bet Beck's listeners will be disappointed that the collection doesn't include seeds for Tater Tots, Hot Pockets and Little Debbie Zebra Cakes.

Anon • #19 •
I'd be surprised if 1% of the people who jump on this bandwagon have the knowledge, ability, or stamina to work a 1 acre garden! Or to figure out how to make it produce year-round to feed the family. I've spent years perfecting my technique, and I still can't provide for the two of us year-round without outside sources. This is only going to appeal to people who are worried about the future, yet have no idea how hard it really is to farm their own food!

magicbean • #26 •
oh my goodness. I have grown almost all of those varieties. They are about the most common heirlooms you can get, and nothing spectacular, available from Fedco Seeds for under $25 total. And I can say, having grown and personally tested 10 different varieties of dried beans that Jacob's Cattle are the gassiest beans ever. Is that a maybe good defense against invading zombies? Rosa Bianca eggplant are very tasty, but about the worst producers unless conditions are perfect. Same with Pink Banana Squash. Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage is actually spectacular. Costs about $2.50 for 300 seeds.

magicbean • #33
No matter how well you store onions seeds, they lose almost 75 percent germination after a year. It's just the way onions seeds are. Storing up to 20 years at 70 degrees is what the site recommends. And there's dessicant inside the vaccuum packages. The problem with that is seeds do have a little moisture inside them - it's part of what keeps the seed alive. If the seed dries out 100 percent, it will never germinate. It's no longer alive.

And..and..and...i keep thinking of things that don't make ANY sense with this. Like why are there NO root crops in the mix? It's all stuff you have to eat fresh, like lettuce and tomatoes. Why on earth wouldn't you want to grow stuff that keeps forever, like parsnips and carrots? Cylindra beets are yucky.

zikzak • #63
Post-apocalyptic gardens are appealing for the same reason post-apocalyptic armories are: they give us the feeling that we could "go it alone", being independent and self-sufficient when the rest of the world collapses into chaos.

And they're both lies for the same reason: we depend on our community not to kill us, and no amount of self-sufficiency can save us from a community that wants to kill us. Neither bullets and diesel nor hippy gardens and herbal medicine can keep a family alive in the face of large organized groups of people bent on murder, taking your shit, or doing anything else that makes survival impossible.

Once the society you live in includes an organized group that wants to kill you (be it government, religious, tribal, military, or a good old fashioned mob), and there's no stronger group organized to suppress it, the game is already lost.


Ms Sparrow said...

Wow, fascinating!

Blythe said...

Well, if preparing an apocalypse garden would keep my Beckistan neighbors from mowing, spraying herbicide, and using their leaf blower I'd be happy. But I figure they'll just kill me and steal my self-planting orach and nifty heritage carrots. These are the people who announced loudly: "No, you don't have to share your popsicle with your sister. That's the Obama way. We don't do things the Obama way in this house." (They don't like us or our dandelions or our politics. I can live with that, but being mean to their own children to make the point?)

Daughter Number Three said...

Blythe, that is a very sad commentary on their values, which I assume are supposed to be Christian and so would have some connection to the Golden Rule.