Seed Exchanges run into legal problems

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 - 6:20pm

Seed Libraries Struggle With State Laws Limiting Exchanges

The state laws that are being enforced were written when such things did not exist.

Seed exchanges have sprouted up in about 300 locations around the country, most often in libraries, where gardeners can exchange self-pollinating seeds rather than buy standard, hybrid seeds. In spots like Duluth, Minnesota, the conflict with agriculture departments has surprised gardeners and library officials, who established exchanges to meet a growing interest in locally grown food and preserving certain varieties, never thinking to examine the intricacies of state seed laws.

"It's about the philosophy, the legacy of shared seeds," Duluth Library Manager Carla Powers said. Its seed exchange is operated by library employees and volunteers out of a converted wardrobe. "It's about sharing with our friends and neighbors in the community."

Agriculture officials say they weren't looking for a fight but felt obligated as they became aware of the increasingly popular seed libraries to enforce laws, which are largely uniform across the country.

Is there a seed library near you?

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