Island seed haven planned

Original Article by Karen Morrison

Since this article was published, the Salt Spring Seed Sanctuary was formed.

A group of organic producers hopes to make British Columbia’s Saltspring Island a seed sanctuary.

Dan Jason of Saltspring Seeds said 10 people are involved in the project to preserve edible and medicinal seeds and plants on the largest of the Gulf Islands.

He believes its relative isolation, small population and acreage make it an ideal sanctuary, free from disease, large-scale agricultural operations and genetically modified contamination. The temperate climate will allow growers to single out strong varieties based on characteristics of nutrition and maturity and learn what can be adapted for Canada.

Unique plants such as bamboo and nut trees are now grown on the island, Jason said. He said government seed storage sites and plant research stations once maintained numerous varieties. Through downsizing and elimination, much of the research has been farmed out to private corporations, often pursuing the development of new genetically altered species.

A website will one day provide information on plants and seeds. Seed keepers from other parts of Canada will also be invited to preserve older varieties.

“We will connect people so they can get it from each other,” he said. The project is an extension of what Jason has been doing with his seed company for the last 15 years. It also builds on the work of three island farms and their organic apprenticeship and ecoforestry programs. Jason’s company handles about 500 different seeds, mainly beans, grain, garlic, tomato and lettuce.

A charitable foundation will likely be created to provide funding, he added.