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Farmer Cooperative Genome Project (FCGP)


Hi, Folks!

I attended a workshop on the Farmer Cooperative Genome Project at the
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture Conference this weekend
and it definitely seems to be a project worth joining (I did! :-D)!  Here
are excerpts from the brochure and info to send in to join.  Feel free to
e-mail JJ with questions -- he's very approachable. You don't have to be a
farmer with acres to save seed or join the cooperative -- even a windowbox
grower can do it! :-D  Distribute the info to anyone you think will be
interested -- the more seed savers, the more seeds we all have to share! :-)  

Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's Organic Community Garden

A mission of 
St. John's United Church of Christ, 315 Gay Street, Phoenixville, PA  19460

The Farmer Cooperative Genome Project (FCGP)

The Farmer Cooperative Genome Project (FCGP) is a collaborative effort to
return farmers and gardeners to the practices of characterizing and saving seed.

With support from the fund for Rural America, and administrated by Oregon
Tilth, the FCGP explores the feasibility of a cooperative marketing
structure that rewards producers for maintaining our nation's most vital
resource base -- the seed.

Consolidation of the seed industry, the rush to patent varieties, and recent
technological developments all result in a narrowing of the genetic base on
which agriculture stands.

The FCGP offers an opportunity to learn about another level of genetic
resources, to add integrity to seed saving efforts and to participate in a
cooperative marketing effort!

What is the FCGP?

The Farmer Cooperative Genome Project is a three year project to assemble a
farmer owned seed cooperative.  Participants in the effort will learn how to
work with the United States' repository of seeds (the National Plant
Germplasm System) and other seed resources, learn how to characterize or
describe varieties, learn how to grow true seeds and develop plant varieties
for preservation and sale, in addition to learning about cooperative
development!

Why do we need the FCGP?

Traditional garden varieties of seed are in decline.  Over 2/3s of the
nearly 5,000 non-hybrid vegetable varieties offered in 1984 seed catalogs
were dropped by 1994.  Less than 10% of the seed companies in the world are
responsible for over 63% of the varieties offered in 1997.  As seed
companies are lost, traditional and heirloom varieties of crops are lost.
Compile the loss of known traditional varieties with the lack of
preservation efforts for native varieties and the threat to our common
genetic heritage is staggering.

National and international efforts to save seed and other genetic resources
are hampered by insufficient funding, and political and economic barriers to
information sharing.  Private efforts often lack the guidelines for
maintaining populations and reproducing true seed.

Of the estimated two million plants, our nations genetic repository, the
National Plant Germplasm System, has approximately 450,000 varieties of
plants in storage.  Much of this collection is at risk.  The NPGS lack
sufficient diversity for almost half of the major crops to reduce crop
vulnerability.  Much of the collection is insufficiently characterized.

The patenting of plants threatens our continued access to agricultural
resources.  Patenting obliges farmers to pay royalties on every generation
of seed, breeders no longer have free access to genetic resources to develop
new varieties and consumers end up paying higher prices for food and medicine.

Describing or characterizing a variety and publishing that description goes
a long way toward locking that variety into the public domain, and
protecting our common heritage.

Who can participate in the FCGP?

The FCGP wants you!  From the window box growing condominium dweller to the
production farmer, the FCGP is open to everyone.  Gardeners who want to take
part in characterizing plants can participate in the race to protect our
common heritage.  Growers that have the capacity to reproduce seeds will be
encouraged not only to characterize those varieties, but also make them
available for sale in a cooperative marketing effort.

How does the cooperative work?

Growers characterize varieties according to agreed upon guidelines;
including photographs, growth descriptions, susceptibility and resistance to
pests, diseases, and stress.

Seeds are grown in accordance to guidelines for seed regeneration that are
acceptable to the National Plant Germplasm System.

Member growers work with at least one other member to ensure that the terms
of the cooperative are met.

Members access true seed from the National Plant Germplasm System and other
reputable sources, grow out and describe the variety.  Seed growers grow
seed to seed according to acceptable guidelines, work with another grower,
and forward a portion of their seed to a regional packing facility.  The
regional packing facility then returns a percentage per pack sold to the grower.

In addition to facilitating trialing and development of seed varieties, the
FCGP offers support to growers to familiarize them with seed resources, the
age old art of seed growing and the business of cooperative development.

As we rely more on backyard gardeners and farmers to maintain our genetic
heritage, it becomes increasingly important that we are careful and
knowledgeable about seed preservation.

The vast numbers of plants needing our attention warrants an army of
dedicated growers.  Exploring regional varieties and developing new crops,
growers working together add a level of integrity to seed preservation
efforts and create a model for international cooperation.

Mail the following to:
Farmer Cooperative Genome Project
Oregon Tilth Research and Education
30848 Maple Drive
Junction City, OR 97448

Or

E-mail JJ Haapala at <jhaap@tilth.org>

Name:

Address:

Telephone #:

Fax #:

Email:

Please provide a brief description of your gardening or growing background
and interest in seeds:



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