Irish seeds heritage under threat

The Irish Seed Savers Association (ISSA) has launched a national appeal campaign this week to ensure its survival.

According to Damhnait de Brun of the ISSA, the association is facing huge challenges and closure is imminent if funding is not secured.

An independent body, the ISSA was founded by Anita Hayes in 1991 and it conserves the richness and wealth of Ireland’s agricultural legacy in terms of various Irish fruit trees, 800 Irish organic seeds, organic seed potatoes and numerous unique grains.

In a public appeal, the association explained its current financial difficulties.

“Many of you will be aware of the association’s recent struggles. We have for the past number of years been receiving grant aid from the Department of Agriculture to help support our important work in saving Ireland’s agricultural heritage,” it said.

“Projects such as the creation of a new research orchard at Irish Seed Savers containing all of our Irish Heritage Apple cultivars have been made possible as a result of this funding. Unfortunately like many others, we have experienced quite severe cuts over the past couple of years and this together with the economic downturn has meant that despite our best efforts we continue to operate at an unsustainable level financially. This has lead to a situation where the continued operations and very survival of Irish Seed Savers is in jeopardy.”

Speaking to AgriLand, De Brun stressed it was an urgent appeal. “Productivity here is not sustainable at this current time and it is very worrying not only for staff working here but for Irish heritage. We are working one week to the next. We are not even able to restock the shop.

“The association here produces open seeds, it’s part of our heritage. It’s true Irish seed, independent, an open pollinated seed as compared to commercial hybrid seed.”

It its appeal the ISSA said the future of Irish food heritage was “extremely insecure and protective seed legislation has yet to be passed”.

“Unless we as nation have the right to grow our own seed, save our own seed and share our seed, we don’t have food security. Growing our own food is simply the best way forward.”

The work that ISSA does is too important to give up without a fight hence the public appeal, it added.

More information and to support the ISSA is available here.

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