Peliti Seed Bank

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Jeffrey Andreoni:

"The “live” seed bank Peliti, which has been raising awareness about endangered varieties of heritage seeds since 1995. Once tiny, now Peliti is an NGO that receives thousands of visitors for its annual seed swap where you can get a mind-boggling number of seed varieties for free. It’s the biggest event of its kind in the world with an estimated 5,000 visitors from about 50 different countries in 2013. Recently I had the opportunity to interview one of the 200 Peliti volunteers, who are spread throughout Greece and beyond.

They call themselves a “live seed bank” because traditional seed banks store seeds under refrigeration, sometimes for up 15 years, which is “more like a seed museum than a seed bank,” according to volunteer Vasso Kanellopoulou. Peliti concentrates on keeping their seeds reproducing and germinating so they don’t fall victim to genetic erosion. Originally they started out with only a few hundred varieties, now they have thousands they’re saving from extinction.

Peliti isn’t just a community. It is yet another node within the larger global seed-saver network. They are now morphing into a decentralized network themselves. Their organization has given birth to many satellite communities that are linked with one another via a Google Group.

These satellite communities, one of which is in Athens, organize local seed swaps for those unable to travel to Peliti. The local seed swaps emerged from a growing interest by urban farmers in Greece who wanted more heritage seeds after the financial crisis. Peliti is encouraging growth of urban agriculture throughout their network.

Their organization goes even further, with a consortium of seed savers being represented in the European Union by a team of lawyers. They’ve also helped stop a law against heritage seeds in the E.U. parliament. Ironically, it was the Greek government that proposed the legislation that had seed savers all over Europe worried. Thankfully the E.U. parliament has rewritten the legislation after hearing the complaints.

Recently, Peliti launched International Seed Days, a series of meetings attended by delegations from more than 18 countries. The meetings are closed to the public and take place two days before the seed swap. The renowned activist Vandana Shiva spoke at International Seed Days last year.

Panagiotis Sainatoudis, Peliti’s founder, says that one of the organization’s basic principles is “to support man’s freedom to keep his own seed so he won’t depend every year on seed purchase, commerce, not even on the seeds supplied by Peliti.” When you get connected to the Peliti network, you automatically gain some autonomy." (

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