California is the fourth state to pass a law making it legal to swap seeds and collect them in non-commercial libraries. That’s good, because the U.S. Department of Agriculture Federal Seed Act, in place for 80 years, mandates that any activity involving non-commercial distribution of seeds must be labeled, permitted and tested according to industrial regulations that would be both costly and burdensome to the hundreds of local seed libraries operating in 46 states.
Nebraska, Illinois and Minnesota also recently passed laws protecting non-commercial seed activity from regulatory requirements. Free seed libraries, swaps and exchanges increase access to local food and can play a large role in expanding and preserving biodiversity.
Neil Thapar, the food and farm attorney at the Sustainable Economies Law Center, says, “We wanted to create the legal framework for an alternative system that is not reliant on large companies to provide open-pollinated seed varieties. Seed sharing has a direct connection to building local economic resilience.” The center is taking action to try to get laws changed in all 50 states.