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Modern Seed Pioneer Champions Non-GMO Food

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Baker Creek Headquarters in Mansfield, Missouri
Walk into the wood-planked Seed Store at Baker Creek’s Mansfield, Missouri headquarters, and you’ll likely find a dozen different varieties of cabbage seeds for your vegetable garden, even more melon  than you could imagine, and the beginnings of a globally diverse flower garden.  What you won’t find are genetically modified organisms, those transgenic seeds tweaked in a laboratory that have been overtaking Midwestern agriculture and our commercial food system.  Like everything in the rolling hills of Bakersville, this simplicity is intentional.

Seed company founder Jere Gettle is a seed enthusiast and educator first, businessman second, although growing interest in what Gettle calls the “pure food” movement has been central to his business success.  His entrepreneurism germinated from a sincere interest in the origins of food and in preserving that wealth of knowledge for future generations.  He might just sell more heirloom tomato seeds than any other businessman these days, but Gettle’s full-color seed catalog includes a tutorial on exactly how to save your own tomato seeds for next year’s garden.  Children up to 16 are still admitted free to the popular spring planting festival because of Baker Creek’s emphasis on education.  

Baker Creek Seed regularly tests lots of its heirloom seeds for the presence of unwanted GMO contamination.  It’s become especially challenging to offer heirloom, non-GMO varieties of corn since commercial agriculture has planted much of the nation’s cropland in the kind of corn engineered to grow its own pesticide.  In his exclusive interview with Flour Sack Mama, Gettle explained his reasons for not selling GMO seeds.  “One, a lot of people are concerned, me included, about the health risk of gene altered foods.  But also, gene-altered foods so far have all been patented and controlled by a few corporations. So we’re technically not allowed to even offer seeds that are contaminated in the catalog and we also wouldn’t offer them anyway because of our stance on the issue.  But it’s basically the whole ownership of who owns our food and our genetics and life in general, whether corporations should own life or not. That’s why we test, we want to make sure our seed is public domain. Anybody can save it and pass it on to future generations and it‘s not contaminated with genes from a corporation.”
Baker Creek Seed has not only signed the Safe Seed Pledge to show its stance on the GMO issue, but it is one of the notable seed companies among dozens of groups proactively seeking protection against seed contamination in the case of Organic Consumers Association, et al versus Monsanto.  Gettle explained, “We’re part of the lawsuit against Monsanto right now, trying to get the ability for small farmers to be able to grow seeds without the fear of lawsuits.  We don’t believe the small farmer should be sued because they planted corn and pollen accidentally blew into their field.”
Rodney Durrenberger packs cucumber seeds.
We were invited inside the warehouse where Baker Creek employees were painstakingly weighing and packing most seeds.  A machine helps mechanize the process for the top sellers.  Warehouse manager Joel Taylor said popular sellers like pickling cucumbers and Blue Lake Bush beans are often packed in higher volumes with the machine.
In another building, women dressed in pioneer-era clothing were pulling seed orders from a numbered library of seed envelopes.  The business model is generous in providing local jobs, while technology is used smartly to get shipments out the door.
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