Lynn Swearingen (c) copyright 2010 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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“However the major issue is the announced fees for the registration of conservation varieties in Sweden. The Agricultural Department (SJV) in Sweden has proposed a fee of 3000 SEK (approx 300 Euro) for the registration of a new conservation variety and an annual fee of 2000 SEK (approx 200 Euro).”

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Two aspects of living intertwine their way into my life on a regular basis : good Art and great Farming. A feeding of the soul along with nurturing of ones body – the basis of a pretty good life.

For the first I can recommend Canadian Robert Bateman as a Master Artist of depth, breadth and originality. Be prepared to sink into his world of detail and, through further investigation, come away amazed.  Not only does he express beauty in his works, but he lives a beautiful life contributing to his community through development of programs designed to educate and protect the natural world he lives in.

For the Second I recommend the humble seed.  If the reader is not familiar with the technical definition of what a seed is, head on over to Wiki for the various -isms, -ologies or (goodness) even the -tyledons. I prefer to consider the seed a hope, a dream, a miracle. When carefully considered breeding is planned, the most glorious varieties of sustenance to gut and glory to the palate are achieved.

What instantly springs to mind combining the best of both Art and Farming are tomatoes. Specifically the Green Zebra created by Tom Wagner in the early ’80s. If one is a “foodie” of any level, the introduction of this open-pollinated cultivar cannot be discounted. Sought by home chefs and professionals alike, the Green Zebra entered into main stream culture at local markets and fine retailers such as Whole Foods. With its arrival, the populace realized that tomatoes could be more than red-globular-cardboard cut outs picked unripe, gassed and shipped to the masses at market to be sliced into rigid forms draped across insipid greens and deemed a “dinner salad”.

Ostensibly in the United States one has the 4th Amendment protection from search and seizures. But what happens when a foreign country is allowed to seize or outlaw what is essentially a “work of art” created by Mr. Wagner?A combination of beauty and bounty contained in the tiny-tinted-tart-flavored-striped -package of bio-diversity and it can be mine for merely the planting of a simple seed. Unless of course, one resides in the European Union.

And so we arrive at the point of this piece. My favorite S. lycopersicum is apparently under scrutiny in relation to a new  “directive”. The EU Directive on Conservation Varieties (EU DCV) has the stated purpose of:

“acceptance of agricultural landraces and varieties which are naturally adapted to the local and regional conditions and threatened by genetic erosion and for marketing of seed and seed potatoes of those landraces and varieties”.

If most International Bodies wanted the populace of peasants in member states to understand what the Directive meant, it would be written in simple form. However by tossing in some “Legal Basis”, “Articles of prior Directives” and obscure references to unnamed “Commissions”, it was easy to confound the ultimate purpose of EU DCV : Censorship.

Censorship is the traditional method of controlling a populace. The act exists in numerous forms, most not overt and yet some instituted in the form of “betterment of the population”. Perhaps control is promulgated through the intentional control of information or the approval through licensing of a specific art form. Dependant upon the social awareness of a people – censorship can be exercised to control the entire mindset of generations.

For an interesting interpretation of “The Long History of Censorship” we can turn to this article from Norway:

“Censorship has followed the free expressions of men and women like a shadow through history. In ancient societies, such as those of Israel or China, censorship was considered a legitimate instrument for regulating the moral and political life of the population.”

Of course this is the same “member state” now expressing its interpretation of the EU DCV as such:

A new directive on Conservation Varieties was adopted by the EU in 2008. It enters into force
in June 2009. However, under the new directive (1) seed exchange and sale is still prohibited
among farmers; (2) only varieties deemed interesting for conservation and sustainable use by
certain authorities can be covered by the system, (3) the variety release and certification
criteria are still strict, (4) the marketing and use of the varieties are limited to the regions of
origin; (5) only limited quanta can be used; and (6) the conservation varieties cannot be
further developed by farmers. These provisions are under revision for possible
implementation in Norway. The revision of the seed regulations is carried out in close
dialogue with farmers and their organizations, as well as with other stakeholders.

These provisions are no longer “under revision” – they are the Law in the majority of Member States of the EU.

Contained within the EU DCV is the discussion of “region of origin”. What and how does that affect the peasants farmers? Considering that each Member State sets the guidelines of what varieties can be grown in which “region of origin” and what fees might be applied to the privilege to own/grow/sell said seed varieties, this article (with limited translation) from Sweden discusses not the limitations applied, but the amount that must be paid for the right to do so:

However the major issue is the announced fees for the registration of conservation varieties in Sweden. The Agricultural Department (SJV) in Sweden has proposed a fee of 3000 SEK (approx 300 Euro) for the registration of a new conservation variety and an annual fee of 2000 SEK (approx 200 Euro). The registration fee needs to be renewed every 10 year, but once the conservation variety is registered any small-scale seed company can sell these seeds (in small packages). But each seed company needs to pay the 2000 SEK for each variety they wish to sell – every year. The small-scale seed companies cry out that this will lead to far larger registration fees than the income from selling the seeds.

The effect will be the reduction in biodiversity and the lack of continuation of the age-old tradition of farmers sharing among themselves seed from the fruits of their labours. If one can even move this concept further, Mr. Wagner has discovered and states on his forum that once his Green Zebra variety is registered (which it currently is on a list to be) in Austria:

“The problem with the EU directive is that as soon as a variety has been accepted as a “conservation variety” it may only be reproduced and sold by the person or company that registered it, thus, privatizing the variety. Maintaining old varieties will put small growers into an insecure predicament.”

“At present, applications for registration in the Austrian catalog have been made concerning 70 vegetable varieties, including popular ones such as the “Green Zebra” and others. The problem I see is that once an EU country has accepted a region as the “region of origin” of a certain variety, that variety may be cultivated in that region only. I wonder, since I am the breeder of the Green Zebra tomato, what rights do I have?”

From the 10th to the early 20th Century, the Hapsburg Dynasty controlled much of what is present day Europe. Of course they also became a famous patronage of the Arts as well.  Renowned for Political intrigue, and edicts controlling everything from human reproduction to religious freedom, they retained the common sense to allow the peasants to maintain their seed stock and to improve their crops.

In fact, it was not until 4 years after the Hapsburg decline in 1918 when the Soviet Union introduced “Collectivization” ( in which peasants farmers were told exactly which crops to grow in what amounts in what regions even if that “region of origin” could not support the type of crop grown) that a Governmental body attempted to dictate the approval nor the amount of seed produced. Interestingly enough, the former Soviet Union remains “former” still to this day.

I suppose that Mr. Bateman (of our artwork above) expresses this insane little diatribe toward the EU best in this quote from 1994:

“I am a possiblist. I believe that humanity is master of its own fate… Before we can change direction, we have to question many of the assumptions underlying our current philosophy. Assumptions like bigger is better: you can’t stop progress: no speed is too fast: globalization is good. Then we have to replace them with some different assumptions: small is beautiful, roots and traditions are worth preserving; variety is the spice of life; the only work worth doing is meaningful work; biodiversity is the necessary pre-condition for human survival.”

Or perhaps we remain the sheep willing to be led along the cliff until there is no escape from the hunter of current day. George Bernard Shaw express his opinion of this ever-changing choice:

“Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! (for our purpose – Seed)

You bury it the ground, and it explodes into an oak! (alas freedom)

Bury a sheep, and nothing happens but decay.”

So my appreciation of fine art and gardening perhaps intersected in the concepts mulling about my mind today. With the passage of S 510 and it’s restrictions on the agricultural community are we soon to follow with the legislative processes of Collectivism?

Who knows Comrade, who knows?