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Local Food Advocates Pushing for Changes in Springfield

Illinois local food producers are backing plans to keep the state's public seed libraries free from what they call over-regulation. (iStockphoto)
Illinois local food producers are backing plans to keep the state's public seed libraries free from what they call over-regulation. (iStockphoto)
April 7, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Advocates of sustainable food are in Springfield today talking about local food policies, as a state Senate committee considers a seed-sharing bill.

Supporters of HB 3130 believe it will help protect free, public seed exchanges.

According to Illinois Stewardship Alliance, over the past few years at least two states have tightened restrictions on seed libraries.

But policy associate Rebecca Osland with Illinois Stewardship Alliance says recently Minnesota and Pennsylvania reversed course by passing bills to exempt seed exchanges from complying with commercial regulations.

Osland says Illinois should add similar exemptions for local seed libraries.

"This is important to biodiversity; it's been a tradition that people have engaged in since the beginning of agrarian time," she says. "So, we wanted to just be proactive and clarify the law here."

But, some state-level agriculture regulators have come out in favor of tighter monitoring, saying it could prevent someone from sneaking toxic or weed seeds into a library.

Osland, however, says those concerns are overblown. She argues, adding more regulations to seed libraries would benefit the commercial seed industry at the expense of smaller, local food producers. Osland says the exemptions in HB 3130 would only apply to non-patented, noncommercial seeds.

"It'll be a really strong message that this is a value that we have," she says. "People should be able to garden and save seed, that we have this freedom to exchange that product of nature."

So far, the seed-library exemption has earned bipartisan support from at least six state senators.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL