Part 2. This is the second of an ongoing series with Dr. Alan Kapuler, founder of Peace Seeds, and former co-founder and research director for Seeds of Change. He currently resides in Corvallis, Oregon where he continues his research projects, and maintains his remarkable organic seed catalog.
Alan Kapuler is a well-educated man in the formal academic sense and also from a lifetime of hands-on work as an open-source, organic plant breeder: planting, breeding, and cataloging his vast collection of open pollinated seeds (more about his seeds in the next video).
Kapuler describes himself as a “public domain” plant breeder, developing stabile varieties of open pollinated seeds that can be used, and further adapted by backyard gardeners, and urban farmers without any licensing restrictions, or the inability to re-use the same seeds for future harvests.
By contrast, many seed catalogues contain hybrid seeds that can be used only once before their desired traits begin to unravel. This “vendor lock-in” requires that customers obtain a fresh supply of seeds from the seed (catalogue) companies for each new planting. This also prevents further plant breeding to occur, the age old practice of local adaptation used to select out more desirable traits from successive generations of plants.
Vendor lock-in is the same mechanism used by the giant seed corporations to insure that their highly specialized hybrid seeds are not re-used by farmers from prior harvests, and that protects their ability to collect what many farmers consider a hefty technology fee for the development of the hybrids, in addition to the cost for the new seeds.
As more continues to be learned from the successful Human Genome Project, Kapuler points out that many of the important structures of our body are shown to come from other organisms. For example, the ribosomes that are the cellular sites of protein synthesis come from microbes (bacteria and archaea) and the mitochondria that provide energy for the cell (and collectively, the body) is a relative of a soil bacterium that predates human evolution and the evolution of all animals. Inside the human genomic DNA is a gene that codes for the lens of our eye. The gene originates from a yeast that grows in water and uses it to release phosphate from organic molecules.
So how then did it come to pass that we can obtain patents on living matter? If one follows the biological threads of our human evolution, patents on life are mere derivative uses of nature—only a reassembling of nature’s parts—from something upon which we have never owned, and therefore have no right to bestow ownership title to others. But in so doing, we have laid the seeds of ownership of our food supply [about 2:30 inside the related video] to the multinational corporations that control the seed.
Listening to Alan Kapuler closely, one begins to discern a philosophy and a generous wisdom that understands there are limits to what Science can know (and what Science can do for us), and there are wonderful mysteries to life that are unending.
For Kapuler, a garden is a good place to devote one’s life to sorting out what truly matters.