Sanctity of Seeds in this Sacred Season

Linda Gregg CSJ

This column has been suggested as an avenue to express concerns, hopes and opportunities around the realities of food production, food security and related ecological issues.

This is the time of year when we wait in expectant hope for the Seed of God’s life to be born anew in our hearts and lives. All the earth and the universe we know came from the seed of God’s dream in a time of distant past. And it is ours to cherish and safeguard so it can be born anew. The seeds that are tucked into the ground of the earth and stored in jars, packets, barns around the world are keepers of the sacred seed of Creation’s life – its diversity, its harmony and the balance. 

Yet, there are those in our modern technological world who seek to alter the genetic code of these seeds for novelty and for profit, an immense profit. It is the world of biotechnology and GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Seeds that were saved from year to year by farmers with an intimate knowledge of their land and an eye for the plants that grew best in their soil and climate are now in danger of being lost. It is not that nature is against new things, as our evolutionary story tells us abundantly, but that this is being done without the safeguards of nature’s original design! It is being done for immense profit. These companies are seeking patents for life itself, which is not theirs to own. Such companies, especially those working in developing countries, deny farmers the right to grow their own seeds. In turn this throws them into bankruptcy. As food activist Vandana Shiva has reported, thousand of poor farmers in India have committed suicide after being unable to purchase seeds and feed their families. There are many stories from around our world that document this reality.

With increasing rapidity our food sources in North America, Europe and around the world are made with GMO seeds – without our knowledge or consent and without the labelling of GMOs in the grocery store. Canadian organic farmers are battling against the government approval of GMO alfalfa, which is critical for organic production. There is an insidious conspiracy of secrecy that is funded by companies like Monsanto where backroom deals with government officials are ‘de rigueur’ and immense pockets of money blanket us with misinformation. What god do these companies serve? What God do we serve?

Recently, Cardinal Turkson the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was invited as keynote speaker at the World Food Prize. It is the showcase for GMO food technology and the dinner was made from all GMO foods. When Cardinal Turkson rose to speak he warned his audience that his words might cause indigestion for this group. In his speech he spoke plainly saying it is hazardous and sinful to employ biotechnology without a responsible ethic. He raised concerns about the economic, environmental and social consequences of GMOs. For it is not the farmers who are missing the point – but whoever refuses to look at the whole food insecurity picture – that includes people and their dignity and their lives as well as food production –  will miss the point. Indeed, at the end of his address, there was some indigestion.

What might we do?   Ministry of Learning & Action:  Canadian Biotechnology Action Network: Food Sovereignty & Environmental Justice – www.cban.ca/;  Canadian Organic Growers http://www.cog.ca/; Cardinal Turkson’s Address  www.ncronline.org/blogs/eco-catholic

Ministry of Prayer & Presence: We each are bearers of the Light of Christ – and around us the sacredness of creation. Let us in this sacred season keep in our mind and hearts the sanctity of seeds and the sanctity of farmers. May we let our prayer bring the Light of Christ more fully into our world and our earth.