What is open-pollinated seed?

Open-pollinated (OP) seed is openly bred from the crossing of plants of the same species through natural mechanisms (e.g. wind or pollinators). These varieties have been selected over time to have generally stable, uniform traits. When you save seed from OP seed, you will get offspring plants that also have these traits, looking and performing more-or-less like the parent plants.

Open-pollinated seeds are produced through both grower selection as well as natural selection, and contain enough genetic diversity to maintain vigorous growth and adaptability under changeable conditions.

What is heritage/heirloom seed?

Heirloom and heritage seed refers to varieties that have been maintained and passed down by seed savers. Sometimes measured as at least 60 years old, many have been saved and shared for much, much longer than that! All heirloom seeds are open-pollinated. However, not all open-pollinated varieties are heirloom- plant breeders and farmers continue to naturally breed new open-pollinated varieties today.

Heirloom and heritage doesn’t always mean the seed is of higher quality- many farmers and plant breeders today are saving new open-pollinated varieties of organic seed. For more information on why this important work of participatory plant breeding is needed for farmers and resilient food system, take a look at the Organic Seed Alliance website.

What is hybrid seed?

Most of the time within seed saving, the term hybrid refers to ‘F1 hybrids’, which is what commercially available hybrid seed is commonly called. F1 refers to the ‘first generation’ of offspring plants produced by a cross of two genetically different parent lines, performed in a controlled environment by plant breeders.

If you save seed from a plant that originated from F1 hybrid seed, you won’t get seed that produces offspring ‘true to type’- it won’t look like the parent plants, and you may see a wide array of genetic traits. Check your seed packets to see if they say ‘F1’- you can plant these seeds and get a good crop of veggies, but don’t try saving seed from them!

Much more generally, the term hybrids can refer to the natural cross of two different varieties or species, or of two non-identical parents.

Importantly, hybrids are not GE/GMO seed.

Does the Seed Library carry hybrid seeds?

No. We only carry open-pollinated seeds, so that you can try your hand at successful seed saving and get a true-to-type seed crop.

Are any of your seeds genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified (GMO)?

None of our seeds are GE/GMO. We purchase all of our seed from local, small-scale growers who produce heritage, organic/ecological and open-pollinated seed. We believe seed should be held in the public domain and not patented, which means that anyone can save their own seed and share it freely.

GE seeds are artificially created varieties that have had genes from other species inserted into their genetic code. They are usually patented and cannot be saved.

Remember, there is a vast number of varieties out there of different plant species. Off colors and odd shapes of lettuce or squash aren’t indicators of genetic engineering- just the stunning diversity of plant genetics out there!

What is local adaptation and why is it important?

Locally produced organic/ecological seed is adapted to the unique conditions of the region it is grown in, as well as to the unique conditions and pressures of organic/ecological farm systems. Much of the seed currently available for sale has been selected in conventional farm systems, and has not been selected for traits such as pest and pathogen resistance and drought tolerance.

Adaption to local conditions becomes especially important as we see more erratic shifts in climate and experience periods of drought and climate instability. In uncertain times we will need resilient, regionally appropriate seed to produce more of our food locally.

What do you mean by ecological seed?

Ecological seed is a term that is increasingly used to refer to growing methods that work to steward and improve ecosystem health and diversity, but may not be certified organic. Organic certification can be expensive and time consuming, a barrier that keeps some small scale ecological growers from becoming certified organic.

The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security has an excellent definition of ecological seed here.

Where can I learn more about saving seed?

Browse our Borrow.Save.Share site for downloadable seed saving resources, our map of seedy folks around BC, and more info on community seed sharing.

You can also visit gvpl.ca/seedlibrary to see our upcoming free seed saving workshops in and around the CRD. All workshops are hosted by experienced seed growers, and cover the foundations of saving quality seed.

Where can I buy organic seed?

Visit the ‘Local Growers’ section of this site, under ‘Our Friends’. You can also check out local farmers markets and Seedy Saturday events in various communities around BC every Spring.