Return to the UKabc Home Page Updated 8 November 1998
THE HENRY DOUBLEDAY RESEARCH ASSOCIATION (HDRA)
THE GOOD HARVESTER AWARD
FOR APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY: SAVING THREATENED SEEDS
AND ENRICHING THE WORLD's DIVERSITY
AWARDED BY: THE UK FOOD GROUP*
a coalition of top UK agencies working for world-wide food security
NOMINATED BY: THE INTERMEDIATE TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT GROUP* (ITDG)
for a more equitable and just world: enriching the lives of poor people through strengthening their technology
Chris Underhill, ITDG Chief Executive (left) and Helen Wedgwood, ITDG Senior Food Production Specialist (third from left), presenting 'The Good Harvester' World Food Award to Alan Gear, HDRA Chief Executive (right) and Jackie Gear, HDRA Executive Director (second from left)
When an elderly curator of precious bean seeds lost almost all of her harvest the future of the unique Crimson-flowered Broad Bean seemed doomed. Instead Miss Cutbush sent the last remaining seeds to the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA) for their Heritage Seed Library (HSL). From just four seeds, which the library successfully propagated, the precious bean was saved. Now it is one of the most popular Broad beans in this unique Library, and is grown by thousands of gardeners across the UK.
"Without HDRA's Heritage Seed Library (HSL), the Crimson-flowered Broad Bean would have disappeared, and many other varieties would be extinct. HSL is protecting the skills, knowledge and seed technology of our forefathers and is a model for similar work across the world," says Patrick Mulvany of ITDG, nominating the Heritage Seed Library for the UK Food Group WORLD FOOD AWARD. "HSL is a beacon of hope at a time when biotechnology companies are developing self-sterilising seeds which will prevent farmers and gardeners re-sowing them."
The library was founded in 1978, when legislation designed for commercial growers started rapidly eroding the vegetable varieties available to UK gardeners. European legislation limits the varieties that can be legally sold and UK seed legislation demands varieties be registered, but at a cost.
Gardeners wanting tasty, colourful and traditional varieties which ripen over a long period of time, are left with less exciting commercial varieties. By contrast these are designed to maximise yield and ripen uniformly. They have high water content, and there is little emphasis on flavour or appearance of the crop. Varieties such as Magnum Bonum (Champion of England) Peas, Ice Crystal Wax French Beans, Green Zebra Tomatoes or Belgian White Carrots cannot be sold or traded under restrictive European and UK legislation. Sales of any variety not on the official list are banned.
HSL, however, has cleverly exploited a loophole in the law. By lending seeds to members it can protect traditional varieties, spreading their growth to gardens throughout the UK. Members can't buy or sell the seeds but they can 'borrow' them from the library.
With 700 varieties of Heritage, delisted and 'illegal seeds' - the library is a genius method of protecting and enhancing diversity for UK gardens. 35,000 packets of seed are distributed each year to its 9000 members, and new "traditional" varieties are added every year. 250 gardeners known as Seed Guardians regenerate about 100 self-pollinating varieties every year. Cross-pollinated varieties are grown by HSL staff and contractors in order to ensure purity of regeneration. Up until now HSL has relied on the chance donation of seeds by people like Miss Cutbush, but recently the UK government's environment programme, through the Department for Environment Transport and the Regions (DETR), has agreed to fund a search for more varieties.
So effective is the library that it may influence imminent changes in UK and European legislation to allow the sale of small quantities of so-called 'Heritage Varieties'. "With contamination of these precious varieties by genetically modified seeds now on the horizon, maybe the same legislation should also ban the cultivation of these 'Frankenstein Seeds'," PatrickMulvany, of ITDG, added.
"The job this library does is invaluable to the richness of our food and our gardens and in maintaining varieties whose disease resistance and other characteristics may prove invaluable in the future. It ensures that this generation will not be the one to lose the technological wisdom of previous generations, sewn up in the diversity of its seeds. The world - and our kitchens - would be poorer without the tasty Heritage foods the library has saved from extinction."
For further information contact:
Sue Cooper - +44 1759 368 286; or Jagdish Patel - +44 171 523 2369.
ITDG PRESS RELEASE
Re: UK Food Group Award
Embargo until 00.01hrs, 16th October 1998. INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT CHARITY PRESENTS WORLD FOOD AWARD. On Friday 16th October 1998, Intermediate Technology, as part of the UK Food Group, will celebrate World Food Day by presenting a `World Food Award' to the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA). The award is for their Heritage Seed Library (HSL) which "saves threatened seeds and enriches the World's Diversity" says Patrick Mulvany from Intermediate Technology. "Without HDRA's Heritage Seed Library, many seed varieties would disappear and others would be extinct. HSL is protecting the skills, knowledge and seed technology of our forefathers and is a model for similar work across the world. HSL is a beacon of hope at a time when biotechnology companies are developing self-sterilising seeds which will prevent farmers and gardeners re-sowing them" he said. The library was founded in 1978, when legislation designed for commercial growers started to erode the vegetable varieties available to UK gardeners. Gardeners wanting tasty, colourful and traditional varieties are left with less exciting commercial options. European legislation limits the varieties that can be legally sold and UK seed legislation demands, at a cost, that varieties be registered. However, HSL has cleverly exploited a loophole in the law. By lending seeds to members it can protect traditional seed varieties, spreading their growth to gardens throughout the UK. Members can't buy or sell the seeds but they can `borrow' them from the Library. The Henry Doubleday Research Association are delighted with the accolade. HDRA's Chief Executive, Alan Gear said, "We are absolutely delighted to receive the World Food Award. We are very proud indeed of the achievements of the Heritage Seed library which are being widely acknowledged. Since it was formed, the HSL has attracted over 8,000 members. This reflects how passionately people feel about saving our genetic diversity". For more information contact Lucja Wisniewska at Intermediate Technology on Tel: +44 1788 661100, Fax: +44 1788 661101, Mobile: +44 410 886709 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.