New Law Will Protect Seed Libraries in California

Vague language in last year’s revision of the California Seed Law was clarified by legislation that exempts non-commercial seed trading–such as seed libraries, seed swaps, and other seed exchanges–from state permit and labeling requirements for commercial seed.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Seed Exchange Democracy Act into law on September 9, 2016. Introduced by Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin County), the bill was a response to alarms raised by activists that the imprecise language in California’s seed law could unintentionally impede the free exchange of seed at venues such as seed libraries.

A seed library is place where people can “check out” and plant seeds donated by other community members, similar to a public library but for seed. Some seed libraries are located at actual libraries. Others are housed at elementary and high schools and on college campuses. Seed libraries are vital resources for gardeners, urban gardens, and people who might not otherwise have access to locally adapted seed. Over 100 seed libraries are listed in the listing of sister seed libraries.

(To see the list, click on menu item “Start A Library,” then select “Seed Library Network,” then click on link to sister seed libraries.)

The bill received support from numerous CCOF partner groups including California Climate & Agriculture Network, Center for Food Safety, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Occidental Arts & Ecology Center, Pesticide Action Network–North America, California FarmLink, and the Ecology Center.