{Giveaway} Can Seeds Save The World? A Conversation with Tom Stearns of High Mowing Organic Seeds.

Regular readers know that I’m pretty proud to have High Mowing Organic Seeds as a sponsor. Now, I’m more proud than ever.

High Mowing has always been 100% organic, and soon will be the first and only seed house to be certified non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project. They are defining what it is to be an ethical seedhouse in their transparency as well as agricultural and business practices. I had the opportunity to talk to Tom Stearns, the founder of High Mowing Organic Seeds, several weeks ago about Non-GMO certification, the future of GMO labeling, and how seeds can save the world.

This interview covered a lot of ground. I learned a ton and I think you will as well.

Oh, and about that Giveaway? In celebration of becoming non-GMO verified, High Mowing is giving away a $25 Gift Certificate. Details below.

Meet Tom Stearns, The Organic Seed Guy

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Erica: Hi Tom, thank you for taking the time. Okay, High Mowing Organic Seeds is the first seed company to be certified GMO-free. Can you tell me what’s happened?

Tom Stearns: Sure. Basically, over the last five years as more and more folks have been concerned about GMOs in our food supply, there’s been an effort by the Non-GMO Project to come up with the list of rules that anybody can use to keep GMOs out of their various food products.

This certification is for food companies and farmers and that kind of thing. It’s similar to certification for the word organic. Many people used the term “organic” but then there came the need for a more formal list of rules so that it meant the same thing to everybody that was using it. And when people became certified organic, consumers needed to know that that actually meant something. Of course, many farms have standards that are higher than what certified organic requires of them, so that’s just left up for everybody to figure out how they communicate about that.

So similarly with the Non-GMO Project, companies and products have been able to go through this verification process to let consumers know that they have committed to products without GMO contamination.

And for us, it’s seeds. And that’s new – nobody before us has had their planting seeds verified as Non-GMO. We’ve been working with the Non-GMO Project over the last five years and we’re the first seed company to go through their rigorous process.

Now, for us it was…I’m not going to say it wasn’t a challenge, but our standards internally are already higher than what the Non-GMO Project standards require. So for us it was going through a lot of formality of process and paper work and figuring out the nuts and bolts of how to do it.

Non-GMO Project Verification Process

Non GMO Project

Erica: How rigorous is the Non-GMO Project Certification? Is it the standard for non-GMO certification?

Tom Stearns: Yeah it’s the standard, there may be a few other organizations out there, but The Non-GMO Project is really the big one. I would say that their standard is very high. And our internal standard is even higher.

Erica: Since High Mowing is already 100% certified organic, why go for the Non-GMO Verification above and beyond that? How much of your motivation to get this additional certification as a company comes from maybe a lack of consumer awareness of what these terms really mean?

Tom Stearns: People should know that organic seeds does mean non-GMO. GMOs are not allowed in certified organic. So our seed has always been GMO-free. But we just felt the increasing need, especially in communicating to consumers out there, to go through this like extra layer of certification and verification, so that they knew it wasn’t just us saying GMO free, but that there was a third party audit that was also saying that.

I think some consumers are more aware than others, and we’ve just seen that in the response to a lot of questions like when we’ve posted this on Facebook, we have people saying things like, “I thought that because your seeds are organic they were already non-GMO.” And then another person on Facebook replies to that saying, “Yes, they are.”

So, it’s interesting to see the dialogue between different consumers out there and their knowledge. I would say that for us, almost everything that we do, we look at as an opportunity for education, and for more conversation around seed issues, organic issues, genetics issues. So, for us, it’s about that educational opportunity.

Erica: What educational outreach is High Mowing doing, specifically about non-GMO and organic certification of your seeds?

Tom Stearns: Our entire marketing approach is an educational-based one, basically. We are trying to help people learn how to grow more food for themselves and their communities and seeds are a key ingredient on that.

On this topic specifically I’ve been teaching workshops about non-GMO for years and a we started a new series of workshops over the last two years. On our website right now there’s a more in-depth announcement about this non-GMO verification and it just goes into the background and what we are doing, why we are doing it, how it works, and a little bit about some other pertinent aspects of it.

So we are looking to our partners like you to help spread the word about this, primarily because we feel like the consumer isn’t exposed to seed issues nearly enough and people have a lot of wrong assumptions about things.

Beyond “OMG GMO!” – What You Should Know

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Erica: Other than the issues surrounding genetic modification, what do you feel are some of the seed issues that the consumer should be more aware of?

Tom Stearns: Well there’s a lot of aspects. GMO you could say is a meta-category but underneath that there’re different practices people don’t know much about. CMS is an example. That’s Cytoplasmic Male Sterility and that’s something that some people think of as GMO and some people think of as not GMO, but it’s currently allowed in organics.

High Mowing has just recently come out – and I think we are the first company to have done this – to say that we are firmly in the camp that CMS constitutes genetic engineering and that we’ve never sold any seeds modified like that and we never will, nor will we partner with folks who are working with those kinds of seeds.

But CMS is a rather complex issue in the seed world for hybrid broccoli and cauliflower, and very few consumers know about it. Other companies may have also made some related statements like this about CMS seed, but since we actually sell hybrid broccolis and cauliflowers, it really affects what we do and what breeding programs we work with as seed suppliers. We’ve been inspired as we’ve brought this issue up with several of our major breeding partners, that they agree and also do not use artificial CMS in their breeding programs.

Erica: Can you explain what Cytoplasmic Male Sterility is, and help my readers understand why it happens?

Tom Stearns: Sure. Part of the challenge in making hybrids, with brassicas for example, is that each flower has male and female parts in them so you’ve got pollen everywhere. It’s harder to control the cross in that situation. What Cytoplasmic Male Sterility does is it kills the male parts of the plant on the female line so that you can make the cross really efficiently.

Now, CMS is naturally occurring – it does happen in nature – but it is also artificially induced through cell fusion. That artificial CMS is, I think, borderline at best when we look at what people really think of as genetic engineering. But the National Organic Program says that artificial CMS is allowed when used within the same plant family. For example, naturally occurring CMS in radishes can be transferred through cell fusion into cauliflower and since they are both in the brassica family, the NOP allows that in Certified Organic agriculture. We and many other international organic certifiers believe that artificial CMS through cell fusion is not consistent with organic agriculture.

Erica: What other issues would you like to see more awareness of?

Tom Stearns: Another big issue has to do with the seed industry consolidation: who owns seeds and who owns seed companies. People worry about us getting bought out by somebody, or think are we just owned by some other company that’s really pulling the strings. I think people really have a lot of fear of Monsanto and the concern of Monsanto buying up every little seed company. We will always be independent.

So it’s a huge issue for us to help people understand where their seeds come from, who is growing the seeds, where they adapted to grow well and where they will thrive. And again a lot of this goes back to our approach of trying to have full transparency with our customers about what we do and why we do it.

GMO Contamination and The “Pound of Prevention” Philosophy

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Erica: As an already 100% organic company what changes or challenges did you encounter getting your non-GMO certification?

Tom Stearns: What I found is that for us there is a combination of two things that are part of our success in making sure our seeds are always free of GMO.

One is prevention, so obviously the first thing you want to do is prevent GMO contamination. We already had pretty robust measures in place for that, but going through the Non-GMO Project Certification process helped us to get better, which we always want to do.

So prevention means several different things. We start by testing our stock seed, which is the seed that we plant to eventually get more seed. So, for example, let’s say that you planting seed in a perfect place, on an organic farm, and it’s isolated, and you take good care on how you’re handling it so you’re not getting it mixed up with anything along the process of harvest or whatever. But if that seed stock starts out contaminated, when you come to the harvest and you do a test, you’ll see that your harvested seed is contaminated.

But if you don’t know that your seed stock was contaminated you’re going to start looking for all sorts of other things like, “Oh, did it cross with the neighbor’s field we didn’t know about? Was there some problem along the way?” So, starting with testing of the stock seed is critical.

Then, these other aspects of prevention like isolation and a really tight mapping system to keep track of where all our seed crops are being produced is key, so that’s been tightened up a good bit. We know what we are growing, and what all the neighboring fields around our fields are also producing to ensure proper isolation.

And then finally, the testing protocols. Before Non-GMO Project Certification, we did a lot of testing in-house, but in order to meet standards for non-GMO certification we’ve increased to the amount of testing that we are doing. That’s meant figuring out more efficient ways of doing that testing, while being statistically accurate.

Erica: I think that that’s a great point. Ensuring the seed remains GMO free is an expensive and logistically complex endeavor. It’s not just sticking a label on a seed packet and crossing your fingers.

Tom Stearns: Right.

Erica: Based on the additional work that you guys have had to go through to get this Non-GMO Product certification, do you think that the consumer has a right to be worried about cross-contamination, even with certified organic seed?

Tom Stearns: It’s a great question, I think that that confidence is between the consumer and the company they’re buying seeds from. They may be very confident in it. And the closer the relationship is, the more confidence they probably could have.

A seed company is often pretty far removed from you, though. You’re ordering seeds online, or through the mail. And what’s actually more concerning I think to a lot of people, is that most seed companies don’t actually even grow any of their seed. So the seed companies themselves are quite removed from the seed production, which is where the contamination usually happens.

Many folks, many seed companies, have good practices about preventing GMO contamination, but we felt like enrolling in this program and becoming verified really made us better. Not compared to other people, just compared to what we had already been doing.

Erica: Did you run into any surprises with your testing? Did you have any contamination you hadn’t been aware of?

Tom Stearns: No, and that’s great news. Because if we had a test of one of our seed crops that was positive for GMOs, I would consider it a failure of our system. Even once. It’s kind of like a food safety issue. You go through your whole process as a food manufacturer to make sure that you don’t put somebody at risk with e-coli, and if they do, you know, it’s pretty awful news.

And this case is nothing quite as dramatic as that, but 95% of our investment is in prevention. Testing is just to check whether that investment is being used right.

Erica: That’s wonderful. Based on the crops that are currently being grown out as genetically modified, what are the crops at highest risk for contamination?

Tom Stearns: Corn, absolutely, and for several reasons. People grow corn everywhere, as opposed some other crops that are much more isolated. Also, 90% of the corn grown in this country is genetically modified already. So that means the likelihood of your seed corn being grown near a GMO corn field is pretty high, no matter where you are. And finally, corn is wind pollinated so that means that it doesn’t behave and stay within its field very well.

Erica: Sure. That makes sense. And in general with the big GMO commodity crops – corn, soy, sugar beet, canola – the contamination risk is in those and related crops. But do you feel like the future is genetically modified versions of many of the market crops, too. I mean, not just the commodity staples but the lettuce, the carrots?

Tom Stearns: Well obviously I hope lettuce and carrots do not become genetically modified, but I think that there are some crops where there’s a lot of money and a lot of acreage, and those will likely be the next ones in line for genetic modification.

With this certification, we are labeling everything and verifying everything that we sell as non-GMO. There are some crops that don’t yet have genetically modified versions yet, but what this project and the Non-GMO Project certification process has enabled us to do, is to prepare in advance.

Take lettuce for example, if lettuce was genetically modified, we would need to implement a whole system-wide process to make sure that the seeds weren’t contaminated, and to determine selection, and where to produce it, and how to test it. And it’s not just the testing; it’s also interpersonal things, like building strategic alliances with all sorts of different companies, businesses, farmers all over the world and really taking those relationships seriously.

But because lettuce isn’t genetically modified, most seeds companies haven’t gone through any kind of process like that. But now with this project and with us being verified, we’re working on that with all of our crops.

So what this does is, instead of putting us in the position of scrambling when GMO lettuce happens, we are working to put our controls in place. This includes our mapping system locating all of our productions wherever they are in the world as well as just on our own farm here. We are developing stronger policies to make sure that we know what every single neighboring field within miles is doing; and continuing to develop the stock seed testing protocols.

Now obviously we’re not testing our lettuce for GMO contamination because there is no GMO lettuce yet, but our systems are getting in place. And all you need to do is to look at the example of wheat out your way that happened a couple of months ago to know that even though there is not GMO wheat commercially on the market, that experimental GMO wheat from test plots escaped and then it’s out there, in farmers fields.

So we may need to act very quickly in a case like that, as opposed to having a couple of years heads-up like we did with GMO sugar beets.

Erica: Out here in the Pacific Northwest as you know, exports of agricultural products are a huge part of our economy. That’s something that most people who think about Seattle as Boeing and Starbucks don’t even know. So many of our international agricultural markets just shut down at the mention of possible contamination of wheat or any of the other staples. It’s terrifying. I don’t think people fully understand the financial implication of this kind of contamination. It’s not just a hippy issue, it’s a business issue.

Tom Stearns: Yeah, no doubt. And I think many conventional growers are not going to be interested in the risks of GMOs, not necessarily because of some philosophical reasons, which is behind a lot of organic farmers distaste of it, but because of these economic issues and complexity issues like, “don’t put my crop at risk.”

Erica: Absolutely.

Tom Stearns: And Russia just said no to GMOs, China banned it for their army, the Chinese army. These are massive players around the world that are saying, “we don’t need any of your American made GMO seed”. So whatever the motivation behind rejecting GMO crops, the world and the tides are really shifting.

True Progress, Labeling, and The Future of GMOs

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Erica: I agree that there’s greater awareness about these issues, but given that agribusiness companies, companies like Monsanto, say things like, “we need this technology to feed the world,” what’s your response to that? How do you as a conscientious seedman respond to that kind of thing?

Tom Stearns: Well I think that some advances in technology in agriculture have not led to a decrease in poverty or hunger. All of our advances in the last 50 or 100 years have still left many people hungry. So it’s not a silver bullet, it’s not just a technology than can solve things. There is a whole social structure and equity of wealth and a sort of democratization of the global food supply that needs to happen. That’s what all those scientists and smart people at Monsanto should be focusing on.

Erica: So you’re saying it’s more of a distribution issue.

Tom Stearns: It’s a distribution and a social issue a lot more than it is specifically an agricultural issue. I am a huge believer in agricultural progress big time, but it doesn’t count as progress if more people are hungry. It doesn’t count as progress if local communities have the life sucked out of them and don’t have the ability to control the very means of their sustenance in the seeds. It doesn’t count as progress if soil is getting polluted all over the place because these new seed technologies require a huge amount of spraying and are incompatible with organic agriculture. None of that counts as progress to me. So I’m not a luddite but true progress looks a lot different.

Erica: What does true progress look like?

Tom Stearns: I think it is balancing the ecological realities that we live in on this planet and taking a long term view to designing a food system that is in line with those things.

Erica: You guys are located in Vermont, the first state to pass GMO labeling law. Was High Mowing a participant in that effort?

Tom Stearns: We were there when it happened, absolutely. Yeah, we’ve testified and written many letters over the years in this process here, and you know, it’s obviously a multiyear process and we were pretty proud that day. When they announced the legislation, we were down there in the state house at Montpellier and we passed out about 2,000 seed packets to everybody that was there.

Erica: I think the fact that Vermont has passed this legislation is fantastic, but given the huge industry opposition and money that gets thrown against state initiatives to label GMOs, do you think that the future of GMO awareness is going to be in private certification programs like the Non-GMO Project? Or do you think that Americans can expect eventually, some sort of legislative assurance?

Tom Stearns: What a great question. I think that, you know, what the Non-GMO Project has said is, we’re going to label it, to make sure people know when it’s not GMO. What the state efforts are saying is, we think that the label should say when it is GMO, and then everything else you can assume isn’t. And organic, there’s already a label for that.

So, I am not sure how it’s all going to shake out. I do suspect that there will be nationwide labeling within five years, by the feds.

Erica: That would be amazing.

Tom Stearns: And I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s even sooner.

Erica: In five years?

Tom Stearns: Yeah.

Erica: I am flying out to Vermont and I am buying you dinner if that happens.

Tom Stearns: Well, all of these state by state efforts are just going to be a huge pain for everybody. And the more of a pain they are, the more ammunition that is for the feds to pass a single labeling law. And the more the food companies that are fighting it are going to want that to happen too.

Erica: I sure hope you’re right.

Tom Stearns: This is nothing new, I mean food companies have to deal with different state labeling laws all over the place, and what they do is, they just label to the highest standard, so they don’t have to have different packaging for every state.

Erica: Speaking of costs of labeling, should your customers expect a price increase in your seeds because of the additional certification?

Tom Stearns: No, no price increases, because we were doing this stuff already. So we already had so much of this in place that we don’t need to pass any of these additional costs on to anybody.

Erica: Sounds like a win, win, win.

Tom Stearns: Yeah, you know, in a few years, if the FDA starts dictating rules on what people can claim about GMO-free or non-GMO the way they did about organics in 2002, it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Because the terminology surrounding GMO isn’t regulated, many seed companies can say they’re GMO free, but they are not testing anything. I’m curious about what may happen if GMO-free claims become something you can’t just use without third-party verification. I think eventually non-GMO claims will require some kind of verification or certification. So, for us we just wanted to put that in place now.

Erica: Do you feel like, with this Non-GMO Project Verification, you’ve kind of gotten as good as you can be? Or is there some way you can you improve transparency or get better as a seed company?

Tom Stearns: Oh we’re insatiable! Being insatiable means that you always have somewhere further to go.

Erica: Do you have a target for that? Is there something else on the horizon for High Mowing that you can talk about?

Tom Stearns: That’s a great question. Let’s talk about that another time, but I would say that High Mowing has a lot of ambitions to help supply the seeds that we need to rebuild our entire food system.

Erica: Rebuilding the entire food system is pretty insatiable.

Tom Stearns: Well, I’m just talking about planet Earth. So we’re holding it to that for now.

Erica: I’m kind of disappointed that you aren’t talking about terraforming Mars.

Tom Stearns: Not yet. But these little things, seeds, are absolutely the most powerful vehicle for the kind of positive change that we need to see. And we feel that really deeply.

seeds quote tom stearns

The Giveaway!

High Mowing is very committed to encouraging a dialog about seed issues like these. They are giving away a $25 gift certificate good for any of their seeds. You pick! $25 will buy a nice selection of their organic, non-GMO seeds.

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below telling me if and why non-GMO seeds and food are important to you. Alternatively, if you have any questions about genetically modified seeds, ask away. Your questions may help inspire or direct future posts.

If you think organic agriculture and growing your own food is pretty awesome, I also highly recommend signing up for High Mowing’s information-packed monthly newsletter, The Seed Bin.

Fine Print: Contest open until Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 8 pm PST. Winner will be notified by email and shall have 48 hours to respond to claim his or her prize. Contest open to residents of the US and Canada. The prize is a $25 gift certificate, furnished by High Mowing Organic Seeds. Good luck!

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Comments

  1. I’m so glad I read this post, I planted seeds that said they were non-GMO this year and had no idea that High Mowing seeds are the only ones that are verified as non-GMO! I’m disappointed that my seeds may not be non-GMO but am glad I learned about this company and now have a reliable source from where I can learn more!

    I would like to know more about the difference between organic and non-GMO, I knew they were different, but still thirst for more knowledge, there’s so much confusion out there with these issues that we could all brush up on our facts. Thanks for sharing! Would love to win some truly non-GMO seeds =)

  2. I don’t like the degradation of the values – lowering of standards. It affects all areas of life and it’s specifically bad in the US because of less regulations than in other developed countries. How often we hear people say: They don’t make this or that like they used to anymore. For example in construction the minimum building codes allow low material quality so we don’t build homes that last a century anymore. It’s the same with the GMO foods. The regulation allows for unsafe foods so the market gets flooded by it and population’s brains washed out. Masses are lead to believe that it’s progress because it came from a lab. Then the companies who make this stuff get rich and use their money to promote their practices and to lobby for even more leeway. I stay away from GMO not only to protect my health but also to take a part in resisting to allow these dishonest businesses to take over the standards of ethics and morals. Hope that makes sense.

  3. Hard to believe that so VERY MANY are willing to risk our futures by taking the chance with GMOs. *sigh*

  4. Tom made a good point early in the interview about the complexity of the GMO issue. What is GMO? What doesn’t constitute GMO? And how do you know if your “non-GMO” seeds really are. It’s a shame we have to worry about this at all but I commend High Mowing for taking steps to keep pure strains and help us farmers and consumer make wise choices.

  5. Methane Creator says:

    Tom, As an avid gardener, I noticed many years ago when purchasing Rose bushes, the flowers no longer smelled like roses. They had hybridized them to prevent diseases and become more prolific bloomers. What good is something that no longer has a smell or inviable taste? With the help of friends, we have replanted heirloom roses which are really nice now. Ran into the same problem buying tomato plants at the big chain outlets. Beautiful tomatoes, but no taste. Been recycling/preserving seeds now to be able to enjoy the heirloom types. Sure, they have disease problems, and may not look as pretty, but we are in it for the taste. We try to have enough harvest to be able to Can as much as possible. Neighbors love it when we give them jars of summer veggies at Christmas time. You can’t beat the taste when compared to stuff brought into the stores from South America.

    • I totally agree on roses! While not the genetically spliced kind of GMO, I prefer fragrance & color over flower shape when it comes flowers! :) I don’t even bother buying tomatoes at the store – except canned (where they’re riper coming into the processing).

  6. Non-GMO seeds are important to me because while I am a scientist by trade I do not like the idea of private companies tinkering with our food supply in ways in which they cannot possibly predict the long term effects.

  7. Thanks for the interview and the giveaway.

    My question I’d be curious to hear your or Mr. Stearns thoughts on: I think we all agree more education is needed as to the dangers of GMO. However, how do you answer the argument, most popularly made by Joel Salatin, that federal labeling laws are not the correct solution? Once those regulations are proposed, it allows the big money lobbyists from Monsanto and elsewhere to influence how the laws are crafted, which history shows us always hurts the little guy. It would likely lead to more federal paperwork, more federal inspection, more federal bureaucracy, etc. That’s been the problem in the first place for small and especially mid-sized growers that want to do things the “right” way. Once the federal govt got involved in what is or isn’t “organic”, we now see there area a lot of loopholes. For example, what “free range chicken” is legally defined as.

    I agree we need more education about GMO so that informed citizens and the market can influence new standards… I just don’t want the federal government F-ing that up too. I believe it would be more effective to allow local verification and labeling schemes to pop up everywhere given their local markets (or at worst state by state regulation). As proof, the Non-GMO Project didn’t need an act from Congress to be effective.

    Thoughts?

    Thanks again for the insightful read!
    –Mike

  8. Rebecca says:

    I care about what I feed my family, and I care that my food comes from non-GMO seeds.

  9. Tom Mcardle says:

    My wife and I now buy our breakfast cereal on Amazon. We buy bulk organic grains seasonally and cook it in our rice cooker. We have increased our breakfast bulk adding fresh apples and cranberries with cinamin .
    Perhaps we have gone over to the dark side .
    But my wife says I am too thin and she dropped another 4 lbs in the last 2 weeks.
    I blame it on the grains. We started with oats, then wheat berries and are now on barley.
    If you had told me that I would be enjoying breakfast or that it would be my favorite meal I would have laughed.
    I still love cookies and breads but my true need is my organic cereals. Go figure?

  10. Non-GMO is so, so important to me! As I learn more about GMO’s and the truth that a lot of the ‘food’ we put in our mouths isn’t really food, I desire better for my family! I don’t want them to be guinea pigs. I want the best for my family, even if it means more money. Which is saying a lot, considering we don’t have a lot. I want to give my family their best chance at health. Their best chance at eating real food. Food that won’t poison them. Food that, instead, will build them and their bodies up! I wish the whole world was non-GMO but I’m so glad to see that more and more non-GMO products are making their way onto the market!

  11. Melissa says:

    It was interesting to learn about CMS. I haven’t ordered from High Mowing yet, but plan to in the future.

    • I agree. I learned a lot about CMS doing this interview – it was an eye opener for me, and I consider myself fairly well informed in this kind of stuff.

  12. Mary Hall says:

    I’m trying to get “back to the basics” of eating as much as possible and plants grown from GMO seeds isn’t part of that. I’ve ordered seeds from High Mowing and get their emails. Good stuff.

  13. aurelia coley says:

    I miss the taste of home grown food. I thought I had just romanticized how good the food my dad grew in his garden until I started using heirloom seeds. I also don’t like the thought of my food being made in a lab to much money is being made for me to believe they have the peoples best interests at heart and not the bottom line. Honesty and safety do not go along with greed. I also want to teach my six children that they do not have to go mindlessly along and have control over what they put in their bodies to live a healthier life.

  14. Tiffany says:

    Erica, having been a licensed pesticide applicator ( in the past) I didn’t believe the “hype” back in the day about GMO’s. I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how people could think it was safe. For me, the reason the fight against GMO’S is so important, is for me about equality. The argument that they will feed more of the poor for less scares me more than the average soccer mom running into a GMO lollipop. To be willing to make a product that will knowingly harm the population with the lowest income, screams of racism. Food justice must involve stopping the onslaught of info that helps keep us white middle class people ignorant. HOW do we make the world better? By standing up and saying ” no we won’t stand by and let more harm happen to people of color, and of minority status for a wider profit margin. And the health of one community is just as important as my own” :/

  15. I want pure unadulterated food for my family and I want it labeled that way so I can choose what I’m buying.
    Carol

  16. Tommy Thombs says:

    Thank you for the information on standardization of non-GMO seed labeling. Without uniform standards and testing of seeds, we have suppliers that say ‘non-GMO’ without any factual basis.

  17. Pogonia says:

    I hate being manipulated! As a person on a fixed income, many times I choose to not eat much rather than eat GMO foods because I resent what has been done to the people in this country. It makes me sad that people actually believe the lies about GMO making it a better world. :(

  18. With the rate of cancer on the rise and my familys own bout with cancer , when we studdied the types and places the cancer manifested the common denominator was food. Its very important to us to eat clean and grow our own. This includes raising our own eggs , chicken , turkey , rabbit , quail , and buying locally raised beef and pork. We have gardens that we start from seed in our green house. We love High Mowing and have ordered from there before. We plan to order more seeds next year ! Congrats on your certification. God Bless .

  19. Great interview! Lots of great info there, and super good work being done by Tom and High Mowing and the Non-GMO Project. I agree with everything Tom stated about the GMO seeds and Non-GMO seeds, the growing of each, contamination, etc… It’s good to know there’s a company who’s planning ahead for our future and the purity of seed. We need to consider our environment, too. We only have one home, so far, and we need to protect it.

  20. Elizabeth says:

    I’m so glad there are people out there like High Mowing really pushing and trying hard to get real plants and food distributed! This GMO business is a dangerous one. The side effects of GMO’s- health issues, cannot grow with out human intervention- that’s all scary to me. We’ve got to protect our families and future.

  21. GMO’s bother me on many levels. One level is the fact that there are always unintended consequences. Ok, maybe you protect against some damaging insect pests, but what about the butterflies, what about the bees, what about the parts of the food chain that depended on the target insect? What about what it might do over time to whatever eats the end result? Another level is that I don’t think it’s right for company’s to own the rights to our seeds.

  22. To me, the scariest thing in the GMO’s is the Bt gene. Bt kills bugs by puncturing the digestion tract of bugs. Some recent research now points to our gut flora adopting that gene and becoming Bt toxic thus the increase in digestive disorders like Chrohns, IBS, etc. The second nastiest thing I heard is that the practice is now to spray Roundup at harvest time to ensure the seed crop finishes at the same time and has a final growth directed to the seeds. This is causing high levels of Roundup in the seeds. Roundup then prevent the human body from absorbing minerals (that’s how it kills off weeds).

  23. I have worked with the farming community all my life and I can tell you that Monsanto has made it easier and more profitable for the farmer. It is going to be very, very hard to get the farmers to go along with anything that is going to make Monsanto go away.

    • I am finding your statement very true among my fellow county farm bureau board of directors. Only the certified organic ones will vote for a GMO-free zone this November. The others cite “property rights” issues wanting to be able to grow anything they want, including GMOs. I find this very short-sighted, but then that is what GMO profitability is all about.

  24. Non-GMO seeds are incredibly important to me. Maybe one day in the distant future, we will know and understand well enough to responsibly apply the technology, but that time isn’t now. Modifying organisms and then just throwing them out into the world is idiocy. It reminds me of the documentary discussing the atom bomb and how they set it off without knowing if the reaction would actually stop or if the whole planet would be consumed. We rush ahead with half-understood science and then our children deal with the consequences. Every GMO is another genie out of the bottle that might never be able to get put back in. Even if it can, it would likely take centuries of diligent testing and destruction of the tainted crops.

  25. Rachel D says:

    For me, besides all the health and environmental reasons for noon GMO, I really love the potential it has for bringing people and communities together which is something I think we really Need more of in our country.
    Interesting that is just listened to an interview with vandana Shiva yesterday about how seeds can save the world. She said that in the next century it is either going to be gardens or it is going to be war. (Interesting that the big 5 all started as chemical warfare companies and switched to agricultural after the war…)

  26. As a 71 ear old female, most of my life has included eating and growing GMO food. I believe the GMO foods have greatly contributed to my health problems and the obesity we see in the children and adults of today. Non GMO foods probably can’t help me, but my grandchildren and great-grandchildren would definitely benefit from eating non GMO foods, as would the rest of the population.

    • GMO food has only been around for the last 20 years, so hopefully the good food you consumed earlier in your life will carry you on for another couple of decades! My parents both lived into their 90s and we rarely ate purchased processed foods (except for the ubiquitous TV dinner now and then to save mom’s sanity…)

  27. Trina Bernice says:

    The health of my children, grandchildren, and the future of our planet are why I am such an advocate for Non-GMO. I think it is unfair to subject us all to a big science experiment without knowing what the consequences will be. I am also against big business willing to sacrifice any and everything in the name of making a dollar. It is a scary situation that depletes the soil and contaminates water sources. The word Monsanto strikes fear in the hearts of many people who know how harmful this company has been in the past. I am happy to see High Mowing Seeds taking a stance against GMOs and providing a place for customers to purchase seeds with confidence. My father always told me that, “You vote with your dollar” and I, among many other people, are looking for good companies to support. Thank you!

  28. As a new gardener(and a new owner of 2 acres of land that is a blank slate) and with all the costs in starting everything from scratch, seeds are an area where I cut some costs (at Fred Meyer and see some seeds, throw them in the basket). This article is very informative and I now really want to pay attention to what I am putting in my ground.

  29. auntie M says:

    I’ve been interested in organic food/ag. issues for 35+ years. Great informative interview. My commitment to thoughtful growing practices is renewed.

  30. Bruce Wasdin says:

    GMO might be good business for a few companies but it is bad business for the world.
    Only by using non-GMO can we maintain the future of our plants. In the long run, things that are not true to their basics will change into a weaker version and could eventually die out.
    I like what High Mowing is doing.

  31. darrell says:

    its a fool thing to mess with the genetics of any of our plant species. its my under standing that gmo seeds are sterile and the food it produces wasn’t really intended to nourish our bodies like organic seed stock.

  32. Personally I don’t have a blanket fear of GMOs. I do think that adding pesticide resistance so you can soak your monoculture fields with poison is terrible. It’s more about the poison than the resistance for me, though. I do garden organically.

    It looks like High Mowing has a great variety of seeds, and I’d love to try some for my fall garden!

  33. I am always on the lookout for non-GMO products. I eat organic and grow organic and it is good to have the security of being able to purchase from a seed company that is not onlyu organic but follows such stringent protocols. I think the potential for people to be sicken by GMOs is huge and it saddens me that so many people parrot the companies party line. Even though “they” say that GMOs are safe and there is no proof/evidence of harm there hasn’t been studies done to explore that aspect of GMOs and until there is a definitive study done with the intent to demonstrate or look for harm to people I am avoiding GMOs as best as I can. I don’t trust the FDA or these large companies that basically only care about their profits. They may say they care about feeding the world but all their activities demonstrate otherwise.

  34. Henrietta says:

    Why am I interested in non-GMO seeds? I have children! I want them to know the world with all of the biodiversity nature intended. Nature does not work in monocultures, and nor should we. Diversity is nature’s insurance policy; why would we mess with that?

  35. I have read alot lately about how GMO’s are making us ill and can ruin our lives and health, so this is ever present in my mind as I have 3 young children. I also want to better our health by eating only Whole Foods and would love to grown our own.
    Linda Finn

  36. Non GMO Food and Seeds are very important to protect our health for us now and down the road for our future generations,in my opinion. Back to the basics we were intended to live, chemical free as much as possible, non gmo seeds,foods are very important for this. All the cancers today and immune system diseases might be caused by all the very changes made by altering our food supply.

  37. GMO seeds concern me – greatly. I believe you lose trace nutrients and the ability for your body to digest it the way nature intended. The correlation between GMO produce and the increased allergic reactions to these foods in people is suspect. We now have so many people gluten intolerant and to me it is of little wonder. The wheat plant of today hardly resembles the original.

    • Supposedly no one should be eating GMO wheat at this point because there is no commercially GMO wheat grown. However, damage done to our digestive system by GMO crops (corn, soy, canola) may indeed have something to do with creating gluten intolerance, or it could also be that most of the flour purchased in stores has been ground ages ago and the oils have gone rancid.

  38. Even my chickens seem to have a preference for organic feed. We got a non-organic bag of feed by mistake and they looked at me like I was trying to feed them foam pellets. Araucana thought bubble: GMO es el diablo.

  39. What a great informative post. We have a no-GMO grow zone initiative on our Humboldt County ballot in November, and I’m still amazed how many people don’t know what GMO means! People are so removed from the very thing that gives them health and life (or disease and death!). That’s why eating pure food is important to me. Hybridizing I understand. As people made in God’s image, we’re also creative, but cross-breeding species is not part of that creative process and all the hubris and money that’s being pouring into GMO development, advertising, sales, propaganda and now labeling campaigns is absolutely shocking. A fraction of that money could have been spent on some long-term studies the last 20 years (not just 90 days!) and we’d know for sure what GMOs are doing to our bodies and our children’s.

    P.S. I almost ordered from HMS last week, but looked on their website and found out my favorite health food store in Eureka carries their seeds. I went yesterday and have a few things on my list now for fall planting!

  40. Dee Fedor says:

    Non-GMO seeds are important to my family. We are trying to grow more Organic foods, and not using RoundUP or non organic pesticides. my grandmother and mother had no known food allergies. I have a few food allergies, and my 36 year old daughter has MANY food allergies. Can’t even imagine what her children would have. There has to be a connection between the allergies (and digestive disease) and GMO foods!

  41. I have had great success with High Mowing seeds. The quality is excellent. I am extremely concerned about the pesticides that are sprayed on GMO crops. They are known neuro-toxins, and neurological diseases are on the rise in this country, not to mention the effect these poisons have on birds, amphibians, and pollinators. Also, the development of resistant weed strains is not a good thing. Furthermore, the law suits against organic and conventional farmers after their crops have been compromised by pollen from GMO’s are outrageous. I could go on and on! I do not buy anything that I know or suspect to be GMO. Thanks to High Mowing for their involvement in the Vermont law and for the giveaway!

  42. Why are non-GMO seeds (and veggies) important to me and my family. GMO’s are a red-herring. The whole idea is that the GMO plants are supposed to make food production faster, better, easier, more nutritious for people. They don’t. To sum up what could be a very, very long essay on the negatives of the GMO industry: GMO’s reduce the diversity of the food system whenever and wherever they are implemented. As a biologist, I know for a fact that systems with higher biodiversity are more resistant to disruption and when they are disrupted by something they bounce back faster and better. That’s as true of food production systems as it is for any other natural system on our planet. I won’t participate in something that, in my opinion, is pushing humanity closer to disaster.

  43. christy gerhardt says:

    i have always touted using organic and gmo-free when available…but what happens when the monsantos of the world push their bottom lines above all else…spreading their gmo pollen around the world so that, eventually, all plant life will be infected with man-made genetic mutations in one way or another? we each can follow our morals and do the right thing on our own patch of land, but, in the end, we can’t live and grow in our own private bubble. we are gripping with our fingernails but it seems like a losing battle when greed and big $$$$ call the shots.

  44. When I can afford them, I will always choose to buy the non-GMO option. For seeds, I think it’s important because it means I know I have control over seed saving—the next round will be viable if I proceed correctly.

    For a long time I was confused about the difference between hybrids and GMOs. That might be an interesting point to cover.

  45. Wow, lots of great information! As a consumer, I appreciate labels and the freedom to make my own choices about what I plant/eat/wear/am surrounded by. Hope to see more companies take these steps.

  46. Mary Ann Baclawski says:

    I’ve tried to educate myself on the GMO controversy. I think there could be a few cases where GMOs can be good. Yellow rice is an example. Unfortunately, these are not the GMOs that have come into wide use. Instead, Monsanto and Bayer seem to concentrate on the GMO crops that let them sell more expensive seed and more pesticides. I also worry about adequate testing to ensure safety, cross-contamination with organic farmers and all the other issues involved. Thankfully there are farmers and businesses like High Mowing Organic Seeds that still allow choice. Hopefully the movement to legislate labeling will finally succeed.

  47. AnnieFrost says:

    As a farmer and gardener I appreciate the extra mile these seed companies are going through to ensure the purity of our seeds and food supply. It is important to my family to avoid GMO food and seeds primarily because of the intentional lack of sustainability from the companies and their bi-products namely the patented seeds. Also, the potential health concerns that have become more prominent are slightly terrifying especially when there is nothing to label the food source.
    What kind of measures can be taken, as citizens, to help advocate for GMO labeling and awareness?

  48. Jack Zeilenga says:

    Great interview. I have been using High Mowing Seeds for a number of years now. As a Vermonter I am very proud of what they have accomplished and what they stand for, as well as our recent labelling bill passage. It is important to me to avoid GMO food and seed because there is no idea of the true dangers. There is no independent research. It is one big science experiment being done on our citizens in the name of corporate profit. I am highly encouraged that the groundswell of support for GMO labeling across the country may be reaching a tipping point and hopeful that beyond labeling some real progress can be made toward elimination of GMOs.

  49. Deanna Garner says:

    I oppose GMOs and happy to hear of a company doing their utmost to provide non-GMO seeds! Awesome!

  50. GMOs concern me because they currently encourage the widespread use of pesticides and herbicides. They also ensure the continued practice of monocropping and therefore the use of non-organic fertilizers. That being said, utilising GMOs for increasing growth rates, drought tolerance and nutritional value of foodstuffs that people all across the world need don’t bother me. I think there’s a balance there that needs to be reached, but I’m not sure where that line needs to be drawn.
    Personally, I don’t use GM seeds. I prefer heirloom and heritage seeds that I can collect and save and continue sharing with people who are interested in the history of varietals like I am. The histories of heirloom seeds are sometimes romantic, and that really appeals to me. I’ve definitely grown a plant just because I liked the story of where the seeds came from.

  51. Karen B. says:

    My father died in January of this year following a 2.5 week illness of pancreatic cancer. It was quite a shock. His doctor called me after he was diagnosed and informed me that this cancer has a genetic component and it would be wise for me to avoid GMO foods and gluten for the rest of my life. I wish it were easier to do but I’m trying. I only eat produce that is labeled organic and eat entirely gluten free now. It’s time consuming and expensive but I feel that it is important to my health. I just hope its not too late.

  52. I garden to help keep my family safe by avoiding GMO’s. I am also very picky about other foods that I buy.

  53. Stacy Thomas says:

    After 1 knock out round with cancer (I won, hands down), I <> that what is in your food is the most influential part of many types of cancer. I beat it by simply changing my diet and the products I used on myself. We garden and grow what we can so we can control what we eat. We try to buy only GMO foods at the stores, but that is so hard. Mr just said, again yesterday, that he hates grocery shopping now, because he does know and he does care what is in the foods we eat and feed our kids.

  54. Buying non-Gmo and organic is very important to me because I want to feed my family real food, not genetically mutated food. Also, as a genealogy and history buff, I want to grow food with a history, the food my great-grandmothers grew. I want the food I grow to be sustainable, to be able to save seeds and teach my daughter how to do the same.

  55. Hi Erica!
    Great interview… I’m a struggling gardener & doing my best not to give up! I love organic & honest living. It has given back to me & my family in many ways. When it comes to seeds, honesty matters. Messing with nature always seems to come back and cause more problems. And I learned today that Organic Seeds don’t mean Non-GMO. Thanks for the wealth of knowledge!!!

  56. Kathleen says:

    Thanks to your site I discovered High Mowing Seeds. Excited to find them at my local co-op too!
    Non-GMO is super important to me. We are building 6 new raised beds and this seed will get them growing!

  57. Yes… it is important to me. I want to be able to grow and propagate heritage flowers and veggies and not have them genetically messed with.

  58. I need a lot more information about why GMO might not be preferred. In the meantime, we should have the information as to whether something we buy is GMO or not.

  59. Gary Ammirati says:

    I live in Los Angeles and we purchased our house on a small piece of property so that I can grow our food, I use organic seeds and non GMO heirloom seeds. It is important to me to avoid the genetically modified organisms mostly because they were created by profit motivation without the consideration of the global community. These organisms seem to have infected many humans with everything from allergies to more serious problems. I also work for a company that sells alternative health products designed for these same people, the ones that have been ravaged by this GMO, profit driven infected food, so I see the damage on a daily basis.
    It seems to me that as a human we should have the right to be healthy and not be forced to be sick.
    I will continue to grow my own food until I leave this planet and do what I can to help others to obtain the fresh healthy food that we all deserve.

    I do think it benefits us all to start growing in our own homes, even if it is just a small amount in our kitchens.

  60. Carolyne Thrasher says:

    What disturbs me most about GMOs (and I want them completely banned) is the death it causes in the soil because you are using a GMO product so you can use chemicals and petroleum based fertilizer so you can supposedly increase your yield for less work. What happens when there is a massive crop failure? It will take years to reclaim the land that has been destroyed. In the meantime, the dead zone at the end of the Mississippi gets bigger and bigger. We are not only burning our bridges but we are burning them while most of us are still on the bridge and from both ends. I’m not an environmental nut who says you should never cut down a tree or never shoot a deer or consume wild caught fish. It just comes down to common sense. The more I garden the more enchanted I am by how things work together and every little bug has its place. I don’t think I will ever completely grasp the wonder of it all.

  61. Thanks for this post. I’m not sure where I stand on the GMO issue actually – mostly because I don’t feel sufficiently informed to make my own opinion. I am, however, really excited about this label, I find the transparency really refreshing. To me this even seems like a “seed library” for our future food supply. Even though we don’t have hard proof that GMO are harmful to eat (or maybe just Roundup is), what if we can in 20 years and there are few seeds from unmodified plants? Anyway, I’d love to know more.

  62. I want to feed my family as healthy as possible and set us all up for long term health. I’d love to win this!

  63. Ada Askew says:

    “The Earth is what we all have in common.”
    ― Wendell Berry

    As a new found lover of growing my own food, I appreciate companies like you that allow this lifestyle and thought process to become part of our character.

    I am looking forward to more information you provide to help spread the word about non-GMO seeds and food to help me and others absorb this wonderful knowledge, just as the seeds absorb water to help our well being. This is all a learning process for me and I have grown to love to live organically. Can’t wait to order from you in the near future!

  64. Elisabeth says:

    I avoid GMO’s when possible, but fully admit I have MUCH to learn about them. Thanks for the interview!

  65. Courtney says:

    Eric, Thank you for sharing your interview with Tom Stearns – it was very informative. I just read an article in Mother Earth News about GMOs and feel like this is a very complex topic that needs more explaining to the general public. People should understand what they are putting in their bodies as well as how they are leaving the Earth for future generations. I especially appreciated the section on Cytoplasmic Male Sterility as I had not heard about that issue before.

  66. Ruth Worth says:

    I prefer to grow my own food and then can , freeze or dry it. Better for our health and with Mr J having two cancers I am wanting to be as close to fresh as I can and by canning I know he is not getting a lot of preservatives

  67. Nicole S. says:

    Wow, I learned a lot about GMO seeds! I never really thought about using only organic seeds for the garden….just bought the ones on sale at the grocery store. Never again!

  68. Happy that I read this all the way through. I have seen references to Monsanto and GMO all over the place in the last year or so and did not understand either. THANK YOU for explaining. The thing that stuck–
    Tom Stearns: ….There is a whole social structure and equity of wealth and a sort of democratization of the global food supply that needs to happen. That’s what all those scientists and smart people at Monsanto should be focusing on.
    Erica: So you’re saying it’s more of a distribution issue.
    Tom Stearns: It’s a distribution and a social issue a lot more than it is specifically an agricultural issue. I am a huge believer in agricultural progress big time, but it doesn’t count as progress if more people are hungry. It doesn’t count as progress if local communities have the life sucked out of them and don’t have the ability to control the very means of their sustenance in the seeds. It doesn’t count as progress if soil is getting polluted all over the place because these new seed technologies require a huge amount of spraying and are incompatible with organic agriculture. None of that counts as progress to me. So I’m not a luddite but true progress looks a lot different.
    Erica: What does true progress look like?
    Tom Stearns: I think it is balancing the ecological realities that we live in on this planet and taking a long term view to designing a food system that is in line with those things.

    THANKS again!

  69. Non-GMO seeds and foods are not important just to me.

    They are actually important to every single person on the planet.

    Even those, maybe especially those, that don’t even know exactly how important they actually are.

    The day that giant agro-businesses decide what it is that we’re all allowed to grow and eat is the
    day I take up residence on the White House lawn.

    Or else move to another continent entirely…

  70. Diana Rose says:

    Non-GMO seeds and foods are incredibly important. We need to get back to eating as Gaia meant us to eat. I know that for me, I am much healthier now that I’ve gone organic and non-GMO. If it works for me, it can work for everyone.

  71. Wow. Thanks so much for an eye-opening interview. We jumped on the organic/non-GMO bandwagon two years ago and have never looked back.

  72. Patrick says:

    Does the term non-GMO bug anybody else? Don’t get me wrong I am all for maintaining the natural genetic diversity of plants and seeds, both for their own benefit and the benefit of the ones who consume them. However genetic MODIFICATION is a natural process of life. Natural genetic modification is bound to happen over time – after all survival of the fittest, no? Its the genetic ENGINEERING that I believe is so much the enemy here.
    I’m a firm believer that Mother Nature is all the more powerful and all-knowing than I am. So I’m gonna leave her to what she does best. Why do humans have such a need to play *insert Higher Power here* and go and muck everything up!
    I congratulate High Mowing Seeds on their accomplishment of becoming the first non-GMO certified seed producers. I commend and support them on their mission and cant wait to continue buying seeds from them :)

  73. Dorothy Malinski says:

    Here in Hawaii we just watched the televised debate of two candidates competing for US Senate to complete Daniel Inouye’s term. I was leaning towards Rep Hanabusa until she stated that GMOs are safe and she’s been eating papayas all her life and they’re all GMO (not true). I just emailed both Colleen Hanabusa and Brian Schatz telling them her comments were a deal-breaker and I will vote for Brian based on his concerns about GMOs and saying we should be able to know about the food we put on our family’s table.

  74. I would love clarification of what GMO is in real-life terms- how is it different than hybrids? Are all GMO seeds created by gene splicing in labs or is it considered a GMO if a purple potato and a yukon potato get together and have a baby? I know some of them (ahem, Monsanto corn) have things (chemicals?) injected into the DNA (so I guess, genes, not chemicals) to make them resistant to pesticides, but surely not all of the modifications are as terrible as that?

    Anyway, thanks for an interesting discussion!

  75. Stacie A says:

    Non GMO is important to me as it ensures me that my food isn’t doused with carcinogenic and environmentally harmful chemicals. Most GMO foods are designed by the same companies that make pesticides and herbicides. GMOs are designed to tolerate heavy amts of herbacide and pesticides, but eventually the crops/insects grow resistant to the chemicals, so a new concoction of chemicals must be formulated to do the job. Meanwhile the health of the environment, insects, animals and people suffers. The use of GMO seeds narrows the diversity of crops grown and allows profit driven companies like Monsanto to own our food supply. Having a small handful of profit driven companies ‘own’ the food supply is a recipe for disaster.

  76. Jessica says:

    Non-GMO produce is important to me because I’m a mom. I care about what I feed my son (and myself, but mostly my son) and how his food affects him. When we know better, we do better. We know a lot more now that when I was a kid and if I don’t use that knowledge I’m not being a very good parent. Not to mention that I think non-GMO is better for the world…

  77. Thanks for sharing this interview and information. Oh, where to begin with non-GMO?!?–I guess I’ll just say that I’m concerned about my family’s health–that we have access to foods that have not been “messed with”; also, I’m a big fan of the little guy and I am most decidedly not a fan of large corporate monopolies. Very glad that I planted many High Mowing Seeds in my garden this year!

  78. Geomama says:

    Non-GMO is important to me because of how GMOs affect the ownership of seed and the ability of farmers to save and control their produce. In too many cases around the world, farmers who go GMO are locked into debt cycles and property rights battles with seed companies. GMOs are sold with promises they don’t often deliver by corporations looking to turn a buck and seek to partner package their chemical fertilizers and pesticides to farmers. In India, this approach contributes to the suicide of thousands and thousands of indebted farmers every year, and forces thousands more to the cities and the slums. It isn’t the sole contributing factor, but these changes to our agricultural systems have far reaching changes in so many other aspects of human life. Plus, the lack of transparency is enough to make anyone shudder. Label those GMOs!

  79. Non-GMO is very important to me, although I am a absolute newbie when it comes to this important aspect of our lives. I hope to learn enough that next year, I can grow an amazing non-GMO garden and start to feed my family with no worries about unhealthy foods.

  80. Since we bought a house 3 years ago I’ve been growing fruits and veggies in my small garden without chemicals and pesticides. The more I learn about GMOs the less I like. Organic non GMO food have less toxins and are better for the environment. It really just makes sense to me and fits my lifestyle. It also really bothers me that Monsanto and other such companies are doing everything they can to ban GMO labeling. It makes me feel that they are only concerned with the bottom line. I have just recently learned about High Mowing seeds and about their values and am very excited to use their seeds next growing season.

  81. Heather says:

    I saw a documentary a while ago about how GMO cotton seed was crippling farmers in India, who had to pay more for it than regular seed and did so because they believed the hype that it would bring them greater yields, even while it was decimating their economic resources. Sadly, it turns out that the GMO seed didn’t actually do very well in India because of their climate conditions and many, many farmers were ruined. Some even committed suicide. “Feeding more of the poor” my eye. Someone’s got to call bullshit on that pseudo-humanitarian marketing ploy. “More money in the CEO’s pocket” is closer to the truth. I might feel more lenient if I thought they truly wanted to help people, but for every Golden Rice there are thousands ruined by Bt cotton seed. And that’s my second fear: that Bt, which is an effective organic control, will lose its efficacy because insects will develop resistance to it through the GMO crops that carry it and we will lose that as a weapon. We’ll find ourselves in the position of requiring pesticides to grow anything at all.

  82. Patrick says:

    Genetic modification of our plant and animal food sources arises from a hubris that runs throughout human knowledge-creation through science. We successfully achieve a glimpse into the working of the universe and, as a result, we mistakenly believe that we have the necessary knowledge to start mucking around in it. The NPK plant nutrient system and monocropping are other examples of this tragic flaw, though its effects are certainly not confined to the realm of agriculture.

    The core of the flaw springs from an inappropriate simplification. In the advancement of scientific knowledge, isolating a specific dynamic and controlling its parameters in an experiment is necessary. In the application of that knowledge, however, the engineering technology that rises from the scientific knowledge must account for a less controlled environment or succeed in controlling that environment to an extent that approaches laboratory conditions. Sadly, our understanding of the complexly overdetermined and borderless condition we call the natural world is anything but complete.

    Plants whose genetic makeup has been guided through interaction with the natural world, minimally controlled–as in a garden setting, have been proven over generations to be able to interact successfully with the uncontrolled and poorly-understood dynamics of their environment. They are, to a degree, generalists.

    Leaving to the side (for the sake of length) the unintended consequences of our attempts to control the natural world, the fact is that we cannot expect to maintain our present levels of resource dedication to environmental control, in technologies like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. In the absence of these incomplete (and destructive) controls, our modified plants would be unable to succeed, where the generalists whose preservation and transmission are threatened by our systemic preferencing of the genetic newcomers would be prepared to succeed.

    I find the detrimental impacts of our attempts to control our food plants’ environments to be personally unacceptable and globally unjust. I do all I can in my limited time to diminish its impact for me and my family–by growing, cooking, and preserving–and for my community–by sharing and teaching. The work of people like Tom and organizations like High Mowing Seeds in preserving a more robust and flexible genetic bank for our foods is the best solution to the threat to our food production system posed by the arrogance of genetic modification.

  83. Non-GMO food and seed is important to me because the people messing with the food do not realize how little they know.

  84. I think that we as a country have a track record for launching headlong into issues without fully considering the consequences, and I think the GMO issues is one of them. I can see how it has great potential, but the potential consequences have me worried. Especially the fact that we are losing many of the heirloom strains whose genetic makeup may become important in the future with climate change, disease and all the rest. Humans have done a pretty good job of genetically engineering crops just by cross-pollinating; splicing genes is starting to feel a little sketchy. I’m going to take a close look at the High Mowing catalog for next year’s seed needs.

    As an aside, I’m currently listening to a novel that addresses this very issue – Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. All I can say is yikes. Just…yikes. It’s frighteningly possible. Here’s hoping we’re smart enough not to go over the edge.

  85. I avoid GMOs because I think species diversity is incredibly important, especially with climate change. I support labeling of GMOs as well. Finding companies that care as deeply as High Mowing is very encouraging and refreshing! Thank you for the interview!

  86. Veronica says:

    the thing that bothers me the most about gmo seeds and other things in that vein is the arrogance involved. that a company, people really (because that’s what companies are made of after all) think that they can own any aspect of nature. there is also a narrow mindedness involved that is troubling. nature does not work in a vacuum, it is systematic and all the parts work together. people think, oh vitamin C in an orange will keep me healthy so all I need to do is find a way to make vitamin C or extract it and put it in a pill. and of course there is the greed involved when you look at super large companies. they are unwilling to even entertain the thought that what they do could be damaging. and how is it that a farmer could be sued when a large company discovers that the farmers crops have crossed with theirs due to their negligence? in fact the farmer should sue them for infecting his crops! i wish that people were more willing to really investigate and perhaps to realize that making stupid amounts of money is not worth what they are doing. i also hope that more and more people start supporting companies like High Mowing, that we all start voting/speaking with our dollars. honestly that’s the only language i think large companies understand.

  87. Bon Vernarelli says:

    The scariest thing about GMOs is in the money trail. There could be ways of modifying seeds that contributed to feeding the hungry, but that’s not what’s happening – it’s all about monopolies and profits, without caution for health safety and environmental concerns.

  88. I am strongly against GMOs. I would like to be able to grow more of my own produce using nonGMO seeds. I am concerned about how many health issues that my family and friends are experiencing and how the creation of GMO foods in conjunction with the use of pesticides have had a part in the health crisis that this country is experiencing.

  89. I think the downfall to modern seed is that you can’t just save some for next year. Only buying seed off the store shelves can lead to just as much disconnect as buying all your food only off store shelves. I learned so much I never knew when I determined to follow some of my plants through their full life cycle and harvest the seed. I am not against all hybrids, and buying seed, but I think there needs to be a balance.

  90. Sally Crouse says:

    Monsanto is just frightening. I hate the way the seed companies and the food companies seem to have no concern for what is healthy, just what puts money in their pocket. Thank you High Mowing Seeds for being so courageous!

  91. I don’t sign a lot of petitions, but I didn’t hesitate to sign one about labeling GMOs. I keep buying corn though, and I’m growing it this year (supposedly with non-GMO seed).

  92. Beyond potential health consequences, GMO patent law is absurd and anti-farmer. Saving seeds should never be a crime!

    Thanks for an engaging and entertaining interview!

  93. Great interview Erica! I actually just planted my very first High Mowing seeds and am very, VERY happy with how well and fast they germinated. Will definitely be ordering from them again. I’m glad they strive to remain GMO free. The ethics behind GMOs from patenting life, to suing farmers that have been contaminated is so unbelievably wrong.

  94. Very interesting interview. I have never thought to check if my seeds were GMO. I would like to move towards using all non-GMO seeds in our garden.

  95. What bothers me about gmo – companies being able to patent a living organism makes me all kinds of uncomfortable. The lack of genetic diversity makes me uncomfortable. The companies’ apparent unconcern about their genes getting out into the general population (aside from suing farmers who might be saving seed) makes me irate. The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Unlike my own, mouthwatering, open pollinated crops from local seed growers :) . Hey, on that subject, there’s a local company down the road from me called Adaptive Seeds. You might check them out.

  96. Thank you for posting this very informative interview. I am concerned that the genetic engineering has raised the spectre of unintended consequences. In Hawaii, there is a real threat of extinction to the native kalo (taro), GMO version of taro could preserve the culture and traditions of growing taro (do you like poi?), but at what cost? The virulent ringspot papaya virus threatened the commercial production for export, but a GMO version called “Rainbow” was developed at Cornell, and has been credited with saving that industry on the Big Island. Apparently, Japan, a big importer of those papayas, approved consumption after a 13 year study of that item. Banana plants are nearly quarantined in some areas due the curly-top virus, but no GMO bananas are being promoted (as far as I know) to replace infected crops there. And consider the dilemma of golden rice, which could alleviate vitamin A deficiency – but it too is genetically engineered. I am very concerned that this genie could wreak havoc if it escapes the bottle too far.

  97. Heather says:

    I grow my own in an effort to support the non-GMO effort. I don’t want my food messed with. I don’t want to lose the right to have my own food.

  98. I am concerned about GMO seeds for several reasons. Some of the important issues to me: I like to save seeds and replant the next year, I don’t want a monopoly on food seeds or patents on seeds. I am not too comfortable with animal genes being inserted into plants either!

  99. Kristina says:

    Although I had thought I have been using non GMO seeds I’m excited to have the opportunity to win some “for sure” ones. We just completed a great little greenhouse and look forward to getting a fall/winter garden growing strong…. hopefully with the help of some awesome seeds. Win or not I’ll be looking into your seed catalog. Thanks :)

  100. I started using High Mowing this year after you recommended them, and I’ve been super impressed with the results so far, even in the high desert of Colorado. I really like the way they do business. For me, non-GMO is important because I don’t think we give enough credit to how our health is impacted by our interaction with natural food that we evolved to eat. A few years of testing is not enough for me to be convinced that manmade food is worthwhile, let alone safe.

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  1. […] {Giveaway} Can Seeds Save The World? A Conversation with Tom … – Regular readers know that I’m pretty proud to have High Mowing Organic Seeds as a sponsor. Now, I’m more proud than ever. High Mowing has always been 100% organic, and soon will be the first and only seed house to be certified non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project. […]