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History of the Safe Seed Pledge


In the mid-90’s the first genetically modified crops were released. While many seed companies embraced the new technology, there were many others who were opposed to the idea of genetically engineering crops. However, there was no organized movement within those seed companies to present a united front opposing genetically modified (GM) seeds. The average grower had no way of knowing whether a seed company sold GM seeds – and there was an assumption that the seed industry as a whole was in favor of genetically modified seeds. Individual companies spoke up in opposition, but much of their dissent was steamrolled by bigger companies, and the anti-GM statements were lost in the fray.

Tom Stearns, president of the then newly-created High Mowing Organic Seeds, realized that “high quality, clean, organic, non-GMO seed was a precious and valuable resource that needed protection.” Incensed by the idea of genetically modifying plants and concerned about the silence of its opposition, Tom created a plan to present a unified voice for seed companies opposed to genetically modified seeds.


In August 1999, Tom drafted five versions of a “Safe Seed Pledge” and sent them to nine seed companies in different regions of the country. He chose companies that were well-established and respected, understanding that having their support of this project was crucial.


After months of editing, the following statement was drafted to address the concerns and position of those seed companies involved in the anti-GMO movement:


"Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms poses great biological risks, as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities."

The finalized pledge was sent to every seed company in America. Within the first month, 150 companies had signed on. Currently (March 2011), nearly half of the seed companies in the United States have signed this pledge. Customers concerned about buying genetically modified seeds can now search for companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge and know that they are buying from a trusted source.


In addition to their commitment to not knowingly buying or selling genetically engineered plants or seeds, companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge are also encouraged to seek out ways to promote progress for a healthier environment.


High Mowing Organic Seeds is proud to have played a part in the history of the Safe Seed Pledge, and is living up the promise we made when we signed the Pledge:


  • We do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants.
  • We are fighting the use of genetically modified crops (for more information about our lawsuit against the USDA concerning Round-Up Ready Sugar Beets, please visit the Organic Seed Alliance's website),
  • We are supporting agricultural progress of genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and healthy communities through our involvement with The Center for an Agricultural Economy, as well as through the numerous lectures on healthy food systems that we offer throughout the United States every year.

We hope that the Safe Seed Pledge continues to unite seed companies in a single, powerful voice against genetically engineered crops. We hope that this pledge can be used as a educational tool and be embraced by the larger agricultural community as a respected business standard.

The Safe Seed Pledge list is now being maintained by the The Council for Responsible Genetics. For more information, please visit their website: http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/help/TakeAction.aspx

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