California Seed Exchange Democracy Act

Policy Type Policy
Policy Jurisdiction State — California
Status Passed
Tags Democratization, JEDI

Policy Summary

California passed legislation in 2016 protecting seed libraries and exchanges on the community level through Assembly Bill 1810. The bill supports the rights of farmers and gardeners by differentiating noncommercial seed sharing activities from commercial seed companies and exempts community members from legal requirements commercial seed companies must follow. Recognizing noncommercial seed-sharing activity as a “significant value to the health of our communities and the resilience of our food system,” the bill empowers farmers and gardeners to protect access to food sources and culture.

Assembly Bill 1810 is made possible by The Sustainable Economies Law Center’s Save Seed Sharing campaign. The campaign, launched in 2014, promotes our right to save and share seeds. State laws protecting seed-sharing activities have passed in California, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois.

The Save Seed Sharing campaign emerged to protect our right to access locally adapted seeds and heirloom varieties. The 1980 “Diamond vs. Chakrabarty” Supreme Court ruling stated that life forms could be patented. Four corporations control 50% of the global seed market1, and farmers re-purchase seeds from the same companies every year. Similarly, the genetic diversity of plants has decreased by 75% since the 1900s2. Assembly Bill 1810 is an example of how we can support noncommercial seed-sharing activities that, in turn, help preserve the resiliency of our food system and culture.

The Sustainable Economies Law Center launched the Save Seed Sharing campaign in 2014, with support from the Clif Bar Family Foundation, to promote people’s rights to save and share seeds while recognizing seeds as part of the cultural and natural shared resources all members of society have an equal interest in (the commons).

As a result, the campaign helped pass 4 state laws protecting seed sharing activities in California, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois.3 The campaign also incorporated a model amendment to protect seed sharing activities adopted by the American Association of Seed Control Officials.

Policy summary courtesy of: Assembly Bill 1810, Diamond vs. Chakrabarty legislation, Farm ActionInternational Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, and The Sustainable Economics Law Center.

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