July 2009 Kent Whealy letter
sse logo

I have once again received a letter from Kent Whealy urging members to take action. Since the letter is incredibly long, I am choosing not to publish it as I have done previously. If enough readers request the letter, I will consider publishing it on the web site. Further, Seedsavers.org has a forum but they have chosen to ban any discussion on this topic.

Before, we get into the meat of his letter, I urge all of you to visit Seedsavers.org. It is an amazing organization founded by Kent Whealy. The members are very helpful and friendly. This discussion regarding Kent, surrounds his termination from Seed savers. He has been blocked from any access to his research spanning over 33 years. I urge any board members to respond publicly to put an end to this issue.

A very broad summary of his letter includes some of the following points.

  1. SSE deposit of seeds in the Svalbard seed bank.
  2. Amy Goldman’s misuse of power
  3. Reasons for his termination
  4. Logo change

Some of my thoughts on the above topics.

  1. Kent points out that SSE’s deposit of seeds in the Svalbard is the only deposit from a private company. He points out concerns over any country being able to request seeds from Seed Savers. Because of the signed agreement and the linked FAO Treaty, Seed Savers cannot deny a request for seed. His main concern is the ability for companies to genetically alter those seeds and then patent those derivatives.My question is; Why is Seed Savers depositing seed in a seed vault whose main goal is to breed new varieties? The summer harvest edition from Seed Savers on page 30 goes into great detail on this topic. I always was under the impression that Seed Saver’s main goal was to recover and maintain heirloom varieties. These varieties already show great diversity. Seed Saver members certainly breed new varieties but this doesn’t seem to be the main focus of the organization. This coupled with questions over patents does indeed raise concerns.
  2. While I cannot go into detail about Amy Goldman’s misuse of power, Kent’s letter does give enough examples that she or the board should respond to any allegations.
  3. The reasons for Kent’s termination is still unclear. It seems that he was terminated for purchasing a storage shed without board approval. The problem is that he states that it was a misunderstanding due to poor communication between himself and Amy Goldman. He also points out that the storage building was needed and in the end, another structure was repurposed for this need. Unfortunately, the original shed was converted into a seed storage facility instead of building a more appropriate structure.
  4. The Seed Savers Exchange’s logo was changed. While it seems silly, this irritates me immensely. Firstly, there wasn’t anything wrong with the original logo. Secondly, there is a huge amount of cost associated with a logo change. Anything that contains the logo needs to be reprinted or changed as is the case with digital content. Lastly, the logos are very similar. Why not change the logo completely if there is a problem? The original logo shows an adult hand passing seed to a child’s hand. This certainly seems to convey the intention of The Seed Saver Exchange.

This short list certainly does not cover his 14 page letter, but I still feel that Kent is being treated unfairly. There is no evidence to date that suggests Kent was hurting this organization. Because of this, I urge the board members to give Kent access to his writings and resources.