For some, genetically modified foods represent technology at its best. For others, it’s nothing short of terror on a plate.
Politics aside, the reality is this: for hundreds of years, we’ve been tweaking our crops to produce more, be more insect-resistant, ripen slower, taste like something else – today, the average salad is more a lab experiment than a meal. And, while the cost of fresh produce has no doubt come down as a result, the price we pay is considerable. Plants that are truly native to this country continue to vanish at an alarming rate. Bio-diversity has taken a back seat to technology.
Native Seeds/SEARCH (Southwestern Endangered Aridland Resource Clearing House) is a nonprofit group based in Tucson, AZ. For 25 years, it has “endeavored to conserve the rich legacy of agro-biodiversity in the arid Southwest because of its genetic potential and cultural importance”. Over time, it’s become a major regional seed bank and is at the forefront of the heirloom seed movement. Practicing “ex situ” (off-site) conservation methods, Native Seeds/SEARCH has created and maintains a supply of 1,800 varieties of arid-land adapted seeds, which serve the agricultural scientific community in reestablishing and conserving bio-diverse crops.
The organization has close ties to the Native American community on both sides of the border. This community of original farmers has a long history of creating substantial farms producing foods well adapted to the local climate. Working together, Native Seeds/SEARCH and the local tribes have been successful in saving and continuing these vital farms, and protecting this rare, critical “genetic library”.
If you live in the area, you no doubt know about Native Seeds/SEARCH, and their incredible operation in Tucson on North 4th Avenue. If you’re passing through Tucson, put it on your list of “must see” places.
For the rest of us, there’s a wealth of information, history, educational resources and an incredible on-line store of foods, spices (take it from one who knows: the ancho-chili powder rocks!) and authentic Native American goods for your home. And, you can download their just-released on-line catalog.
Get to know these people…they’re doing good for the earth.
Image courtesy of bajafrontiertours.com
Kent McDonald is a Certified Personal Chef, living and working in Phoenix, AZ. (c) All Rights Reserved, 2009