[Pedagogical Island], Learning Site, Copenhagen 2006/2007 > Short about seeds and seed banks.
[Short about seeds]
Seeds that produce high harvest yields have often been highly valued by farmers. Since seeds can be gathered, redistributed, exchanged or bought and sold in a market, collecting and using seeds has shaped the cultivation of plants over thousand years.
With the arrival of molecular gene technology it is now possible to make plants that would never exist if it were not for this technology. By inserting in new genes into plants, seeds can be rendered as “new” organisms and owned and controlled through the patent system.
To analyse if plants have been gene manipulated, a technology called poly-chain reaction or PCR for short is used. It is fast and easy but can only find known genes. The only way to know if a plant is manipulated by the insertion of an unknown gene, is to sequence the plant. The sequencing technology is not a preferred technology since it is very time consuming. This could have consequences in relation to seed banks, since some now understand their collections in terms of genetic information, rather than in terms of specific, naturally occurring seeds.
When the plants bloom, seeds form which can be collected and stored for sowing the following year. Some GMO-seeds are created in order not to be reproducible.
To the left, dried radish seedpod. To the right, an onion bloom, that is about to turn to seed.
[A brief on seed banks]
A seed bank stores rare and commercially important seeds for planting or for further
study and research. Storing seed in banks also guards against their loss as a cause of natural disasters. There are public access seed banks as well as regional, national, privaty and crop specific seed banks. There are very few wild species represented in the world’s seed banks. However, there is a Millennium Seed Bank based at Kew Gardens in England that is concerned with biodiversity and which collects seeds from wild species.
When seeds are accessioned into a seed bank, they are ideally dried to a moisture content of less than 6%, then stored at -18°C or below. Because seed DNA degrades with time, most seeds need to be periodically re-sown and fresh seeds collected from the resulting plants for another round of long-term storage.
Another approach to saving seeds is by preserving their natural habit. This is called in-situ conservation. By collecting seed from existing habitats, plant communities continue to evolve with their environment through natural selection.
[Different artificial Islands]