Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Heritage Wheats

I have recently obtained samples of several varieties of heritage wheat. What is Heritage Wheat you may ask? Well, that is a good question and to be frank, I don't know. What I do know is that there are different answers to this question depending on who you ask. To me, a heritage wheat variety is one that is "antique". A variety that was developed say sometime prior to 1940. You see, it was about this time that the war effort was in full swing in laboratories across the world. New weapons were being developed that included chemicals that had the potential to defoliate and poison entire cultures of people. Luckily for us (tongue in cheek) these chemicals became the basis for modern agriculture. They magically and without consequence, enabled farmers to grow crops with fewer weeds, more productivity and in the case of dessication, shorter seasons. Oh yes, and on a lesser side note, some companies were able to make a few little profits.

So, after WWII these same agricultural companies who were busy developing different ways of poisoning the earth were also funding the development of their own breeds of grains. These varieties could survive the chemical baths that other, lesser species couldn't and therefore farmers could spray till their hearts content to get rid of weeds and bugs and other maladies. Soon, these new varieties were the predominant ones and the older varieties selected for natural resistance to lodging and growing seasons and competitiveness were forgotten. With such specific breeding and even genetic manipulation, the new varieties of grains are genetically uniform and very shallow in genetic material. The old breeds are known as landraces and are genetically very diverse. They are able to adapt within a few years to different climates and growing conditions and most importantly are not registered or owned by anyone in particular. Of course some of the antique varieties from the 20's and 30's were registered by hard working breeders in government ag. offices and farms across the continent. These breeds were naturally selected and crossed with other heritage varieties to produce plants with significant genetic diversity and traits that enabled wheat to be grown in places in Canada where shorter seasons or natural obstacles prevailed.

What all of this means is that the companies in question were able to enslave farmers and decieve them into believing that registered, copyrighted seeds in conjunction with associated chemicals were the only modern way to farm. As is the case with all other known forms of modern farming hierarchy, the people making the vast proportion of profits were in fact these companies...peddling their wares like modern day versions of the tonic hoaxsters of years past.

Luckily for us today there are enlightened farmers and most importantly, enlightened consumers who are demanding a return to intelligent and sustainable farming practices using landrace, community owned seeds and organic agronomy.

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