Table Magazine
Food is our common ground, a universal experience.

Food Stories by Table Magazine

A collection of food stories by Table Magazine and contributors from around the world.

Preview of Vol 1: Interview w/ Esiah Levy on Seed Sharing


The Power of Seed Sharing

When you look at a seed what do you see? Independence? Variety? Flavour? Community? Heritage? The key to climate change and soil health? How about a global fight against multi-national corporate interests destructing entire ecosystems? For the seed swapping and sovereignty movement, that’s exactly what seeds are. 

Esiah Levy set up SeedsShare to “give the right to grow food to everyone.” Each season he sends seeds grown in his Croydon garden to over 30 different countries across the world in return for only postage. He explains that much of our current food issues stem from modern society largely losing the knowledge needed to protect and save seeds, focusing too much on genetic ‘perfection’ and growing food available 12 months of the year.

Over the last 100 years there’s been a significant shift in how we use seeds and as such, who controls our food. The rush to find uniformed seeds with huge yields to feed populations with ‘year round’ seasons brought with it seeds produced, bred, priced and controlled by multinational seed corporations. From the 1980’s oil, agrochemical and pharmaceutical companies bought up these seed corps, flushing the market with GMO, hybrid F1 seeds. What projects like SeedsShare are doing, is pushing back. 

“F1 seeds are bred so you’re guaranteed the picture on the front of the packet,” Esiah says as he shows me around the beginnings of his latest project growing squash in his local forest. He explains these F1 seeds are also genetically unstable, bred to be less vigorous after the first year which means “the second season it’s not going to look the same or it might not have the same flavour, so what people do is go back to the seed company to buy again and again.”

You might assume our modern diet is varied but the reality is that today 3/4 of the world’s food is generated from just 12 plant and 5 animal species with a total of 75% of all seeds owned and sold by just 5 corporations, many with ties to fertilisers and pesticides.

This system has effectively obliterated the traditional, natural ways of growing food through open-pollination where saving, sharing harvesting seeds were passed down through generations. The result? A fragile food system relying on few crops and lacking the natural biodiversity necessary to keep the planet stable.

“Originally I started doing it because I wanted to eat healthy but buying organic food was expensive. Where I grew up was just chicken shops and betting shops, so if you wanted to get fresh produce you’d go to Tesco to get a pack of organic cherries for a ridiculous amount of money so you might as well get a cherry tree and do it yourself.”

So that’s what he’s doing. Working with Croydon council, businesses, individuals and community groups he’s educating people about urban growing, guerrilla gardening even agroforestry. He hopes that people, especially the younger generation, will realise the value in saving seeds, get excited about the creativity involved in growing your own food and move away from our throwaway culture. It’s the seeds he and others like Seed Cooperative, Seed Sovereignty and swaps around the world are planting, we can only hope they grow. 

Interview & Photography by Maria Bell

Ariana ChristoffersComment