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The Story of Seeds: Our Collective Legacy, Our Stolen Birthright

What Is a Seed?

Seeds are potential: These tiny, living organisms contain an entire root, stem, and leaf curled dormant in a shell. Seeds are richly various, and sometimes delicious: Pine nuts, almonds, nutmeg, mustard, coffee, cocoa beans, peanuts, beans, and peas — all of these are seeds.

Seeds are our past: Our relationship with them began more than 10,000 years ago, when our ancestors traded in their nomadic, hunter-gatherer ways for a life rooted in place, centered around the cultivation of plants. Early farmers selected seeds from plants based on taste and adaptability, and in exchange, these seeds grew the plants that nurtured and shaped our civilizations. If seeds have been the foundation of human civilization, then farmers have been its engineers.

Seeds are our collective legacy: For most of human history, seeds have been collectively shared and celebrated, a deep knowledge base whose enrichment and accessibility benefits all of humankind. Over time, human efforts to develop plants have resulted in great diversity of varieties adapted to region, soil type, climate, plant disease, and more. Seeds are hard-earned, a gift bestowed onto each successive generation in a cooperative, collaborative celebration of life. Generations of Indigenous people co-created corn through the selective breeding of wild grasses, and kidnapped Africans braided seeds into their hair before crossing the Middle Passage.

Seeds are a promise to the future: a promise of food security, of economic stability. Yet, as descendents of those first farmers, our birthright is being stolen out from under our noses.

Seeds in the U.S.: The Steady March of Privatization

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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