Ancient Seeds: The Key to Feeding the World

Monday, November 03, 2008 by: Lynn Berry
Tags: crops, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) All over the world, crops are failing because they are unable to cope with more frequent extreme weather changes. One day there could be a snap frost, while another day, it could be extremely hot. In these conditions, our modern day seeds are not able to produce the crops we need.

The basis to our crops are seeds developed over the last 50 years. These seeds have ensured good yielding crops. However, these genetically uniform seeds are not able to cope in adverse conditions; conditions which are becoming more frequent.

According to Dr Ken Street (agricultural ecologist), also known as the Seed Hunter, the solution is to find ancient seeds from areas where growing conditions are adverse, and mix these with modern varieties. The 'mixing' could involve the manipulation of genes.

Street works for a seed bank research program based in Syria and aims to find ancient varieties of wheat as well as wild chickpea. His belief is that chickpea, "the poor man's meat" is an important food staple for many in the world. However, like wheat, chickpea crops are failing and now intervention is required for chickpea and other crops to survive.

Street with his team of seed hunters search for the ancient varieties in Tajikistan a country with adverse growing conditions. What soon becomes obvious is that the modern variety of seeds have taken over. Typically these have been handed to villagers by aid agencies keen for people to support themselves by growing high yielding crops. The old varieties are then lost. As a worldwide phenomena, this practice represents 80% of crop diversity lost.

In more remote areas, the team begin to find more ancient varieties of wheat which they collect for the seed bank. Then finally, in a village without road access, they find the wild chickpea, amongst other rare varieties of plants. This variety of chickpea is not edible, but it is a storehouse of super-resilient genes. These genes can be used to produce stronger, more resilient versions of chickpea crops.

Over the last five years, farmers have been struggling with the so-called high yielding seeds/crops, and to encourage better yields, they have been applying more and more fertilizer. It may take some time, for the more resilient seeds to be developed. In the meantime, is the solution to apply more deadening chemicals to the soil?

It is in diversity, rather than uniformity that our future lies. We are discovering, and perhaps not too late in discovering, that nature has indeed provided us with a diversity that enables crops to grow in a range of environmental conditions. We are discovering that seeds and soil are complex biological entities much like ourselves. Rather than always wanting more, we need to work with nature to produce just what we need.

Currently farmers in the eastern states of Australia are hoping that the imminent locust plague will not touch their best crop in eight years. For some it has been their only crop in eight years after severe drought conditions in that time. We too hope that the crops will survive and but know that this pattern of struggle must change for us to have hope in the future.

Source: The Seed Hunter, seen on the ABC and available for download at:

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About the author

Lynn Berry is passionate about personal development, natural health care, justice and spirituality. She has a website at

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