Dear USDA,

A little while ago, the USDA came to town to hear public comments on their draft

The author, looking for the reason why Roundup Ready Sugar Beets are not a fully regulated crop.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of Roundup Ready Sugar Beets. It was a full auditorium on the Oregon State University campus, with attendees ranging from Roundup Ready Sugar Beet growers from the Midwest to local organic farmers and concerned citizens. If somehow you missed one of the three nationwide public comment sessions, you still have your chance to speak out online, by visiting the USDA- APHIS website, where you will also find the EIS itself.

For some pointers, here is a summary of what I said at the public hearing:


I hardly know where to start with this draft EIS, I found so many points of contention. However, I would like to focus on three main aspects.

First, I would like to address the negative socioeconomic impact on Roundup Ready Sugar Beet (RRSB) growers, who would lose money if the crop is regulated. These impacts are caused in large part by the limited availability of conventional sugar beet seed and corresponding herbicides due to the widespread adoption of a crop that should not have been approved for use before an EIS was completed. The USDA allowed this shift to RRSB, and had the EIS been done when it was supposed to be, economic impacts due to short supply of conventional seed could not have been used as a reason to deregulate. It is unfair to include this issue as a defense for RRSB now.

Secondly, the EIS states that “Total pounds of herbicide applied per acre is expected to be greater under alternatives 2 and 3″, although the number of different herbicides is dropped. I have to disagree with the notion that using glyphosate is an acceptable safe alternative to other herbicides. Consider the European Journal of Agronomy, Volume 31 Issue 3, which deals with issues of “Glyphosate Interactions with physiology, nutrition, and diseases of plants”. In an article entitled Glyphosate and Resistant Crop Interactions with Rhizosphere Microorganisms, the authors document a rise in fusarium and antagonistic bacteria following glyphosate applications, while other articles in the journal document weed population shifts, and negative effects to plant health due to glyphosate’s fundamental restructuring of soil communities. The EIS specifically states that the use of Roundup in the production of sugar beets will have no negative impact on humans, other mammals, and microorganisms, however, I have just referred to several papers that demonstrate this is untrue. More research needs to be done, and all the current research must be taken into account here.

Lastly, there is a recurring claim that genetic contamination is very unlikely when isolation distances are set, the pinning map is adhered to, and all sorts of precautions are taken to keep the RRSB from getting into organic and conventional fields. However, it has been shown over and over that GM traits will get out of even tightly restricted areas. In the sugar beet court case, there is a redacted document listing multiple instances of contamination of sugar beet fields, although the names and information are withheld so that the farmers do not lose business when their customers drop contracts. In the public hearing in Corvallis, Ted Hake of Universal Seed revealed that their company has recorded contamination levels of 20% in last season’s crop. 20% contamination for Universal Seed is no small matter, and is definitely higher than the 0% contamination which the EIS advertises. The point is that this contamination does happen; it has happened under partial deregulation and will happen more if fully deregulated.

Please reconsider the option supported by this EIS, and please look further into scientific research on all aspects of this crop before a regulatory decision is made.


Ride the Lawn!

Picture this: You are a large seed and fertilizer company who has been trying to get a glyphosate resistant grass approved for general use for years. The only problem is, genetically modified crops have to go through a regulatory process which is quite slow, and at every corner somebody is just waiting to file a lawsuit. Oh, and also your test plot escapes the assigned area and ends up contaminating the irrigation ditches of nearby farms. Minor issues. You feel like you have been doused in honey; your prize crop is pretty sweet but moving slow and getting stuck on everything. How frustrating!

Until now, that is. Scotts Miracle Gro demonstrated late last week that it is easy to simply side-step the big vat of honey. All you have to do is explain to the USDA that you used nothing in your engineering process that could be considered a “plant pest” and that your glyphosate resistant plant cannot be considered a noxious weed because the conventional form of the plant is not a noxious weed. Voila, no regulation. Easy as pie and quick as a whip, congratulations, you are in business.

Wait, what?

Read “Wait, Did the USDA Just Deregulate All New GMO Crops?” By Tom Philpott, explaining this stunning new concept.

Also, read “Going rogue: USDA may have just opened the GMO Floodgates” By Tom Laskawy.

Also Also, here is the announcement straight from the horse’s mouth: APHIS Kentucky Bluegrass Press Release.

Interview with a Frank.

Holy cow, it was hot today! We were busy getting drip irrigation onto the majority of our crops, and looking at ripening seed out of the corner of our eyes. Tomorrow a couple of Brassica crops get our full attention, and we will cut them and lay them out to dry. Videos of such activities will be in order, obviously.

This just came down ye olde information tube from Frank himself; an interview with him

Early season Frank, doing early season selection.

done by Jessica Knoblauch of Earthjustice.

You can read the entire interview, and listen to it in its 25 minute splendor HERE

Seed Day #1

Seed processing has officially begun for us today, with the scarlet ohno turnip. We harvested these a little over a week ago and they have been drying, waiting to be crushed from the pods and onto our tarps. Most likely we will be doing a mustard variety later this week, and the kales are all filling out nicely with pods.

Watch Hank explain one of our methods of seed extraction:

Confused? Come to one of our seed saving workshops and get all straightened out.

Public Patent Foundation Lawsuit

Wild Garden Seed has joined over 80 other small farms, organizations, seed companies, and individuals in filing a complaint to prevent Monsanto from suing farmers if unwanted patented genetic material is found on their land.

This original complaint was filed a couple months ago in March, and Monsanto responded by saying they do not and will not pursue lawsuits against farmers when “trace” amounts of genetic contamination occur. The lead Attorney for the Public Patent Foundation, Daniel Ravicher, responded to this by asking Monsanto to set this promise in stone and make it legally binding, effectively settling this out of court.  Instead, Monsanto hired one of the top law firms in D.C., and reasserted their right to sue farmers who become contaminated.

With this failure to agree to not sue, an amended complaint has been filed by the Public Patent Foundation, with the addition of around twenty new plaintiffs, including Wild Garden Seed. Another new plaintiff, Marty Mesh of Florida Organic Growers, had this to say:

“If Organic farmers, seed growers, and companies have no assurance that technology they have never asked for, never signed a licensing agreement to use, have no desire to be a part of, and in fact, go to great lengths to avoid, can still trespass on their farms and subject them to a lawsuit by the patent holder who seemingly escapes all  liability for that trespass,  then it is not only morally wrong,  ethically  unjust, but also legally perverse.” (From “Family Farmers Amplify Complaint…“)

A pdf of the ammended complaint, including Monsanto’s responses and Public Patent Foundation’s letters, can be found here.

On the beet

A brief update on the sugar beet case, a couple weeks old but news nonetheless:

The appeal by Center for Food Safety to the recent partial deregulation of Roundup Ready sugar beets has been bundled together with the appeal by the sugar beet industry to the same partial deregulation. What? Yes, both sides appealed the partial deregulation, CFS for not going far enough in preventing possible contamination, and the beet industry for going too far to prevent possible contamination. As the appeal from the sugar beet industry was filed in Washington, D.C. just ahead of the other appeal, the decision was made to hear the two appeals together in D.C.

children of the kale

In other news, we were going through some of our overwintered crops the other day looking for suspicious characters. We played a big game of “which of these plants are not like the others?”, and removed plants that we did not want in the popultion.

Dear plants, please do not make Hank sad. Do the right thing.

come out, come out...

Wild Garden Seed Workshops

As was proclaimed in our 2011 catalog, we are in fact doing a couple seed saving workshops this season. If you are looking to learn more about personal seed saving, or commercial level production, come join us! Visit the Wild Garden Seed website to sign up.

1. Grow your own Seeds

Chicory harvest 2010

A workshop brought to you by Wild Garden Seed

Saturday June 25, 2011

Gathering Together Farm- Philomath, OR


Do you have special vegetable varieties that you love? Do you ever worry that seed companies will stop carrying them and you will be left in a lurch?  Or do you just love plants and want to see them through their whole life cycle? If you answer yes to these questions, come learn about saving your own seed.

This all day seminar is designed for the home gardener or small scale grower wanting to learn the basics about how to save seeds.  Frank Morton and his crew will bring you into the fields at Gathering Together Farm (GTF) where we will discuss how to plan your garden to incorporate seed production.  We will touch on how to manage pests and disease, irrigate, maintain varietal purity, harvest and clean your home grown seeds.

Get the inside scoop from the pros. All day workshop costs $120 includes lunch catered by GTF. Workshop begins at the GTF farm stand on Grange Hall Road in Philomath promptly at 9 am.  Come prepared for the weather, and to walk around in the fields.

2. Seed Growing for Market

Scanning for disease in last year's lettuce field

Brought to you by Wild Garden Seed

Monday June 27, 2011

Gathering Together Farm- Philomath, OR


This all day seminar is designed for professional organic farmers interested in growing seeds commercially as part of a diversified farm system.  If you have saved vegetable seed for your own use, but are considering growing for commercial sale, this is the workshop for you. Frank Morton and his crew will bring you into the fields at Gathering Together Farm where we will discuss how to:

  • plan for growing seeds commercially on your farm,
  • manage common pests and disease,
  • irrigate seed crops
  • maintain varietal purity
  • improve crop varieties
  • harvest and clean seed lots

Want to know what screen will get those little green balls out of your lettuce seed?  We can show the screen, and how to use it. This workshop is designed for growers working with seed lots on small acreage (<1 acre per lot), and for primarily hand harvesting and processing.

Get the inside scoop from the pros. All day workshop costs $225 and includes lunch catered by GTF.  Workshop begins at the GTF farm stand on Grange Hall Road in Philomath promptly at 9 am.  Come prepared for the weather and to walk around in the fields.


The power of the quinoa is in the hills, at least around our parts where we need a slightly cooler nighttime temperature  in order for the Andean plants to set seed. And so, on a mildly rainy day last week we disappeared into the coast range and planted the quinoa starts at Frank’s house.

quinoa gets buddy-buddy with an apple tree

We also found some space for the last of our radishes, which were quite happy to join the quinoa outside.

Hydrating the radish starts before going out to be planted

This young buck was living in our manure pile

At the moment, we have completed transplanting out all of this year’s lettuce, our greenhouse full of plants has dwindled to a few stragglers here and there, and we are beginning to weed what we planted a month ago. Overwintered kale and mustard is beginning to set seed and others are in full bloom.  Everything is poised to jump up very soon!

Don Huber Interview

Last week a great interview popped up in ACRES with Don Huber, the scientist who wrote to USDA secretary Tom Vilsack last Winter urging the agency to stop deregulating roundup ready crops. Huber claimed he and a group of scientists had found a previously unknown microorganism that thrives in roundup ready corn and soy products, and which correlated with infertility problems in livestock.

Monsanto was quick to refute his claims, saying, “Dr. Huber’s claims are in conflict with the weight of scientific evidence supporting the safety and beneficial impacts of GM crops”, but in this recent interview in ACRES Huber lays out the background for how this new organism came to be discovered.

Read the interview, “GMOs, Glyphosate, and Tomorrow”.

Read Monsanto’s rebuttal.

Winter Weeds

Among many other things, including patiently waiting for it to dry out, we have been liberating our overwintering crop comrades from the stranglehold of the authoritarian winter weeds. Using a combination of lawnmowers and serrated hand sickles (“magic tools” in Wild Garden lingo), we are re-introducing our chard and collard crops to the idea of sunlight.

Here is a new video of Anaka describing how we do things:

This week we are getting more radishes in the ground, as well as parsley, epazote, quinoa, and leeks. Photos to come, of course.