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Plant Sex and Why Variety Is Truly the Spice of Life

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In this day and age people don't seem to agree on much. But the one thing that seems universal is an interest in sex. Most people admit to thinking about sex. Some admit to thinking about it a lot. Whether it's taboo, kinky, straight-up missionary, or just reading about it that gets you going... If you're human, it's pretty much a given that some aspect of sex is a captivating topic.

But what about plant sex? Do plants have sex? Can plants have sex? This is what I found myself thinking about as I was researching seeds and their phenomenal and monumental yet underestimated and largely under-appreciated power. Seeds can literally feed the world. Their loss could starve it.

So, back to the matter at hand, how do plants have sex? Well, to call it sex might be a stretch... The way that plants reproduce themselves is, essentially, through cultivating seeds. It may not be as exciting to you as fornication but it serves a critical purpose -- one that touches every person on earth. Because without it we wouldn't have food.

According to Wikipedia: "A seed is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant."
When you start to think of the seed as the embryo it makes you wonder about why we don't care more about these minute powerhouses.

Turns out there are a lot of people lately who want us to care very deeply for seeds. Large movements like Just Label It an pro-labeling organization, to smaller ones like Sacramento's Liberation Permaculture, and the Hudson Valley Seed library serving the Northeast are creating local seed libraries for average citizens, and more are cropping up around the world. (In California, there is a lot of chatter over seeds these days because of the labeling initiative, Proposition 37, which if passed in November by statewide referendum, would require California GMO labeling, and in practical terms because of the size of California's market mean that consumers around the entire country will probably benefit from GMO labeling as well.) These groups want us to know, understand and appreciate where our food is coming from.

And they want us to fight for basic access to re-using harvested and un-modified seeds, something farmers have depended on for thousands of years, which is increasingly being stamped out by a noose of patents. Think of the seed as the holy grail of food proliferation on earth. Consider the fact that in just 80 years we've lost 93 percent of the variety in our food seeds. That development runs counter to a healthy, thriving food system. Something that can be carried on the wind can also be patentable, thanks to Monsanto primarily. Even farmers who don't want to use GMO seeds can be sued for patent violations if their neighbor's patented seeds blow onto their farm and mix into crops.

Biodiversity in plants is essential so that our food supply isn't jeopardized by changing conditions. These seed defenders say that variety (aka biodiversity) is the spice of life.

Documentarian Sean Kaminsky is just one such passionate guy. He's currently working on a film called 'Open Sesame -- The Story of Seeds' which looks at the threats to our heirloom seed supply and why it is essential to preserve seed diversity. Kaminsky notes that if you mention the word heirlooms most people think of tomatoes. "But tomatoes are just one small part of the vintage veggie treasure trove. In fact, nearly every vegetable imaginable also has not just one, but many heirloom varieties." It's those varieties he wants to be sure get preserved for generations to come.

When you scratch the surface of the seed story you learn that there is a major war being waged over seed control. Maybe it's because seeds haven't been sold as sexy. Or maybe our fast-paced urban lives have so disconnected us from our food source. Bottom line: If we eat, we should care. The genesis of every action, the seed of every thought, and the kernel of our health and well-being literally depends on seeds.

They say that sex sells. So are you ready to go and make some plant sex happen? Maybe we can all agree to get back to the older ways of finding food: right in your own back yard. Start a windowsill garden or a small plot and join a seed library... then witness the magic of seeds. While learning about this ancient practice, you'll also be helping to keep our global seed supply safe.

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