She sat listening as the Curator from the Seed Bank at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
described the methods of drying, encasing seed packets in alfoil and then placing them in long
term freezers for future generations. He spoke of back-up generators to be used in case of
electrical power cuts, of underground vaults to further reduce the risk of too much temperature
variations affecting the seeds viability and other general security measures. This was not going
to be easy Ziona thought - all these arrangements just to preserve the seeds native to Tasmania.
She was not really a botanist or garden enthusiast as most of the people around her seemed to be.
She really was a rampant ecological, environmental warrior. Or so she saw herself. Her real
interest was in the food crop seed banks. Her action team was opposed to the spread of genetically
modified or GM seeds that were now being stored in grain and cereal food banks.
When GM seeds started being used in the early 90’s, they were engineered to be one crop only and
seed death or suicide was built into the gene, so that farmers would need to buy fresh seeds each
year. This was good for the large seed/chemical companies of those times like Monsanto. Weed
resistance was also built into the seeds as this lowered the cost of production. However, weeds
being what they are, pests, soon became resistant to this gene. So it was back to the drawing board.
Some GM strains without the suicide gene had to be kept so that future, different lines could be
developed with different weed and pest resistant qualities. These lines all had to be kept in
seed collections too, so that the genetic engineers could keep track of their work.
The Action Team wanted to intervene in this process and remove the seeds. Ziona was gathering
information about how and where this could be done. They had located at least 10 major seed banks
worldwide and had local teams ready to act. They needed a method of striking at the same time to
destroy all the GM seeds but not damage the traditional seeds.
Ziona thought they had bitten off more than they could chew this time. Their skills were in sit-ins,
in pamphleteering and in disrupting meetings. This action needed scientific knowledge and expertise
and, as we all know, most environmental warriors would find an agricultural degree far too specific.
Their specialty was in being generalists who could switch from endangered animals to endangered fish,
forests or food seeds quite easily.
Maybe there was another approach. Maybe they should target the laboratories of the major seed
producing companies. Smiling sweetly, she left the native plant enthusiasts and returned to her
Action Team with her findings.
©fmcFrances Coll 22-9-2010