Library's seed sharing system threatened by Big Ag regulations

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has threatened the Duluth library's free seed-sharing program because it doesn't conform to the seed-distribution rules laid out for big agribusinesses.

Under the state's seed-sales laws (which cover free seed distribution) seeds have to be tested and labelled in a way that makes sense for bulk seed, but which would be impossible at the scale at which the libraries offer. Steve Malone, supervisor for Ag's Plant Protection Division said that "The last thing you'd want to have is somebody goes in the library, picks up seed, and it doesn't come up," which is pretty far from the "last thing" I'd want from my free community seed-swap. That would be to have the program shut down altogether because it's impossible to live up to the seed-testing standards designed for wholesale seed distribution:

For the Duluth library, the biggest hurdle is the germination testing.

Malone, the state agriculture official, said labs typically test about 400 seeds to get a scientifically valid result.

But that would be virtually impossible in Duluth, where most gardeners are only returning a few dozen seeds. Malone said a master gardener in Duluth could test a smaller sample size….

"But if you think about it, if we have a package of 10 seeds, do they take one and test it? Do they take five? And then half our seeds are gone for germination testing and can't be planted in a garden," she said. "So it's pretty tricky to see how that would work."

Duluth library's seed sharing program hits a hurdle [Dan Kraker/MPR]