Seeds of dissent

| Print |  Email
Articles - April 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
0412_SeedsOfDissent_03
Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed, along with 82 other farmers and groups, is a  plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against Monsanto and its genetically modified seeds.
// Photo by Alexandra Shyshkina
Seed growers on both sides of the aisle agree that purity drives their markets. And in the Willamette Valley, farmers have long purified crops through a pinning system overseen by the Willamette Valley Specialty Seed Association. Through it, farmers map where crops will be planted, and work to create space between them to keep them from outcrossing.

“It’s like chess, but backwards, because you keep adding pieces to the board,” says Dan Hillburn, plant division administrator at the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Today, every type of brassica (a genus of plants in the mustard family) is grown for organic seed in the valley, along with spinaches, radishes, chard and beets. Squash, pumpkins and cucumbers are also grown. So are flowers, onions and cool-season vegetables, to name a sampling.

“The seed industry in this valley is a very important place in the world. There are not that many places left that are this big where seeds grow well, so this is sort of like the last best place to grow seeds,” said Hillburn.

As GMO varieties are introduced, there is less space for organic and more risk. Though sugarbeets were the first GMO crop to arrive, there is pressure to introduce canola, which crosses with brassicas. GMO wheat and brassicas also exist, and possible entry into the valley is a concern. Hillburn imagines such problems will grow for organic farmers as GMO crops are deregulated, sold on the open market, and planted outside the “pinning system” (pinned maps) as sugarbeets can be.

Though GMO corn, a common — and deregulated — crop, is not a problem yet, he said. “I think it is only a matter of time.”

Sarah Kleeger owns Adaptive Seeds in Sweet Home, which breeds vegetable and flower seeds for the Pacific Northwest. It illustrates how issues with GMO crops perpetuate. Her farm used to grow Roundup Ready sugarbeet seeds and is a mile downwind from another grower. The farm weeds aggressively to keep beet seed from harming business. But Kleeger says she isn’t sure how long they will persist in the ground and is concerned about evidence GMO traits may transfer in soil by virus.

“In an ideal world, we would be able to grow beta crops here, but we can’t,” she says. While the farm isn’t certified organic, and wouldn’t lose certification if contaminated, “Our customers are the ones that care, not the government,” Kleeger says.



 

More Articles

The best crisis is the one you avoid

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
crisisthumbBY GARY CONKLING | GUEST BLOGGER

Avoiding a crisis is a great way to burnish your reputation, increase brand loyalty and become a market leader.


Read more...

Can small be large?

Linda Baker
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
040115-lindablogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

Leaders in Oregon's ag sector gathered this morning in Portland’s Coopers Hall winery/taproom to discuss the role of the region as an export gateway, impediments to exporting products and solutions to containerized shipping challenges.


Read more...

The ancient fish that stops bullets

The Latest
Friday, May 08, 2015
hagfishthumbBY CHRIS NOBLE | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Hagfish may not have evolved much over the last 300 million years, but their protein-heavy slime promises advances in super-materials.


Read more...

6 things to know about the Amtrak Cascades route

The Latest
Friday, May 22, 2015
thumb3BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The recent tragedy in Philadelphia has called attention to Amtrak and the nation's woefully underfunded rail service. Here are six facts about the Amtrak Cascades corridor between Eugene and Vancouver B.C. 


Read more...

Editor’s Note: It’s a Man’s World

Linda Baker
Thursday, April 30, 2015
lindablogthumbBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

Earlier this week we posted an article from our May issue:  It’s a Man's Man’s Man’s World. The story covered the gender divide in tech from the perspective of male workers. Twitter didn’t like it.


Read more...

Beyond Bodegas

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Five years in the making, the Portland Mercado — the city’s first Latino public market — will celebrate its grand opening April 11. A $3.5 million public-private partnership spearheaded by Hacienda CDC, the market will house 15 to 20 businesses in the food, retail and service sectors. It has some big-name funders, including the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and JPMorgan Chase. The project goals are equally ambitious: to improve cross-cultural understanding, alleviate poverty and spur community economic development. 


Read more...

Banking Perspective

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Craig Wanichek, president and CEO of Summit Bank.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS