For the past decade there has been an uproar in the vegetable seed business as Monsanto purchased Seminis in 2005, a seed conglomerate that has 40% of the U.S. vegetable seed market. More than 55 percent of store bought lettuce, 75 percent of U.S. tomatoes, and 85 percent of peppers originated through Seminis. Then, in 2008, Monsanto bought De Ruiter Seeds, one of the top vegetable breeders in the world.
Monsanto is now in the vegetable seed business for the first time, and it’s in big time. Our salad plate is now being dished out by Monsanto! We now have yet another reason to buy organic produce. Hopefully this will not go to naught, and it will be the impetus to get even more Americans to start a vegetable garden…and possibly a fruit garden as well!
In 1980, the Supreme Court ruled that genetic coding could be owned. This changed the seed industry from public to private, and corporations outside of the seed business (mostly pharmaceutical and chemical cos) started buying up seed companies. A few multinational companies now own our plants’ genes! And our choices keep getting smaller as these hybrid seed companies ‘perfect’ our seed for us, breeding out all of our food history.
Due to Monsanto’s huge purchase, you’ll need to do a bit of homework if you wish to steer clear of purchasing their seed, as even reputable seed companies that have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, are still selling Seminis (now Monsanto) seed. Buying seed from a seed exchange, buying open-pollinated and organic, are safe ways to avoid Monsanto seed.
Remember that although hybrids have been ‘naturally’ manipulated, their genes are stable. But their successive seed will be either sterile or revert back to a parent’s tendencies. Some hybrids have been around a long time and you will even see some sold as organic. Hybrids keep big seed companies in business, as you must buy the seed each year.
Genetically modified seed on the other hand, is manipulated in a laboratory. (Read more about this process in our Understanding GMO Foods post.) Many times the genes are unstable and can jump to other plants, contaminating whole fields. And since GM seed is patented, if you are found with a GM plant on your field, that you did not buy that year as fresh seed, you can be sued.
As many farmers can already attest, Monsanto has a huge budget just for investigating and prosecuting farmers for patent infringement. Monsanto is releasing new genetically modified crops—cotton and soybeans among the recent ones. If you see PVP (Plant Variety Protection) listed, that means the seed or plant carries a U.S. patent.
Another term to note when buying seed is heirloom. There is no standard as to what “heirloom” means. To a small-town seed exchange it might mean one thing, to a seed conglomerate another. Most often heirloom means that seeds are open-pollinated with at least a 50-year history. See the heirlooms wiki page for a good synopsis. Also note, before buying seed, that ‘treated’ seeds are coated in chemical anti-fungals (most likely Captan or Thiram) and dyed. Most small seed companies let you know if a seed has been treated. As to organic seed—best to buy—but most seed varieties have yet to be certified organic. We need to keep certifying varieties as organic, and this is a fairly slow process.
The first list below is a list of Safe Seed Companies—the first few listed under each region sell only organic—then those below sell some conventional seed as well, but it is noted if they sell Monsanto seed. If they do, avoid their conventional seed or check the second list, which lists Monsanto’s vegetable varieties.
The second list below is a list of popular Monsanto seed. It would be very lenghty if all were included, but there are links to Monsanto’s products pages so that you might do further research. Many seed re-sellers buy seed from a broker who has purchased a huge block of seed, the broker breaks up the order, and then re-sells to numerous mail-order seed companies. So, many companies carry the same seed. And unfortunately many of these seed companies then re-name the seed, adding to the further confusion as to which is a Monsanto seed. 🙁
Safe Seed Marketplaces
SeedWise is a marketplace enabling seed farmers to sell directly to home gardeners, so their seeds come from a variety of regions and you can view the profiles of their seed farmers to learn more about them. The site focuses on organic and non-GMO seeds.
There are a number of seed sellers on Etsy, however you will need to research them yourself to determine whether seeds are organic, GMO-free, and don’t match the breeds shown in the Monsanto-owned list below.
Safe Seed Companies in the Northeast US
High Mowing Organic Seed
100% organic certified seed: vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers.
Over 450 organic heirloom, open-pollinated and organic hybrid.
Untreated vegetable, tubers, herb, & flower seed. Many certified organic.
Cover crops, soil amendments & supplies for organic growers.
Safe Seed Pledge. No GMOs, etc. Good prices. Order early.
Website a bit difficult to navigate.
All seeds are open pollinated (non-hybrid) and untreated.
No GMO. Many Organic. Good selection of organic.
Many garden packages. Organic fertilizers.
22 organic veg choices- large selection of untreated seed.
Sells only large quantities. Sells Monsanto conventional seed.
Johnny’s has 324 organic products, including 198 vegetable seed varieties.
Many heirloom. Safe Seed Pledge. Good explanation of the types of seed they sell here.
Safe Seed Companies in the Mid-Atlantic US
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Vegetables and herbs. Most certified organic, all untreated.
99% of seeds open-pollinated. No GMO. Safe Seed Pledge. Is among the organic seed companies that sued Monsanto.
Grows 40% of own seed. Also sells bulk. Nice catalog.
Sow True Seed
Vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Only non-hybrid, untreated, open-pollinated, heirloom and organic seed.
Safe Seed Pledge.
Park Seed Company (bought Sow Organic Seed Co. in 2007)
Flower, vegetable and herb seeds.
Untreated, non-GMO, and some Certified Organic seed.
They sell some conventional Monsanto seeds.
See list of Monsanto products below.
Safe Seed Companies in the Midwest US
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Vegetables, flowers, herbs, bulk seed.
1400 heirloom varieties. Hugh selection. Good prices.
Only open-pollinated seeds: pure, natural & non-GMO. Good reviews.
Sand Hill Preservation
700 heirloom seeds- vegetable, herbs, flowers, grains. Root vegetables, poultry.
Family-run company. Produce 90% of the seed they sell. Untreated, some certified organic.
Signed Safe Seed Pledge. No GMOs.
Ordering only by regular mail.
Seed Saver’s Exchange
A non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds.
Largest non-governmental seed bank in the United States. Maintains more than 25,000 endangered vegetable varieties. Hugh selection of open pollinated vegetables, beans, potatoes, flowers and herbs. Many certified organic. Good prices.
Annie’s Heirloom Seeds
Nice selection of non-gmo heirloom vegetable seeds, only unaltered long-proven varieties. No hybrids. Family owned and operated.
Safe Seed Companies in the Northwest US
Wild Garden Seed
Certified organic farm-original varieties of salad greens, vegetables, herbs and a few flowers. Certified Organic heirloom and other open-pollinated seed varieties adapted for the Pacific Northwest.
Victory Seed Company
Rare and heirloom seeds. All seeds open-pollinated, non-hybrid and untreated.
Signed Safe Seed Pledge. No GMOs. Good size selection.
Irish Eyes – Garden City Seeds
Potato, vegetable, flower and garden seeds.
Most all seeds organic, many heirloom. All untreated.
Large selection of vegetable, herb, flower. Safe Seed Pledge.
Sells a small amount of Monsanto’s conventional seed. See list below.*
Safe Seed Companies in the Southwest US
A non-profit and a project of Ecology Action which does garden research and publishes books and research papers. Large selection untreated, open-pollinated, non-GMO, heirloom seed. Vegetables, herbs, flowers, grains, mushroom kits, green manures, compost and carbon crops. Good prices.
Some Certified Organic and Biointensive.
Certified Organic Vegetable and Herb Seeds and much more. Packets or bulk.
Sells own brand of Certified organic- plus sells Seeds of Change, Renee’s Garden Seeds, Turtle Tree Organic Seeds, TomatoFest Organic Seeds, Horizon Herbs Organic Seeds. Many but not all of the seeds they sell are organic.
Grass Valley, California
Vegetable, wild flower, herb and grass seeds Sells only open-pollinated and untreated seed. Organic seeds are marked with an asterisk. Sells many of their own seeds.
Specializes in high-altitude and southwest seeds. Safe Seed Pledge.
Sustainable Seed Company
Only heirloom open-pollinated seed. No hybrid, treated or gmos. Their farm is certified organic.
65% of all heirloom vegetable seed is grown on organic farms in California.
Non-profit. Sells 350 varieties of heirloom arid-land adapted seed.
Natural Gardening Company
Vegetable, herb and flower seeds. Many organic and open-pollinated.
Organic plants, but hybrids too. Sells some Monsanto seed. Check list below.
Popular Monsanto (Seminis) seeds
For full listing of Seminis seeds click the vegetable name, which will take you to the appropriate Seminis’ page. To see De Ruiter varieties hit De Ruiter link under cucumber, eggplant, tomato, pepper. To make things even more confusing, each mail-order seed company might resell the same seed but use a different name for it. The only way you can be 100% positive you are not buying a Monsanto seed is to check with the re-seller or buy from a company selling their own seed or organic or open-pollinated.
Beans: Aliconte, Brio, Bronco, Cadillac, Eureka, EZ Gold, Goldrush, Kentucky King, Lynx, Storm, Strike, Stringless Blue Lake 7, Tapia, Tema, Xera…
Broccoli: Captain, Coronado Crown, Heritage, Liberty, Major, Packman
Carrot: Nutri-Red, Sweet Sunshine, Karina, Chantenay hybrids, Chantilly, Lariat
Cauliflower: Cheddar, Fremont, Minuteman, more…
Lettuce: Baby Star, Blackjack, Braveheart, Conquistador, Esmeralda, Lolla Rossa, Monet, Red Butterworth, Red Sails, Red Tide, Summer time…
Melons: Alaska, Bush Whopper, Casablanca, Dixie Jumbo, Early Crisp, Early Dew, Sante Fe, Stars and Stripes, Sugarnut, more…
Okra: Cajun Delight
Onion: Arsenal, Candy, Hamlet, Mars, Red Zeppelin, Superstar, many more…
Peppers: Aristotle, Biscayne, Camelot, Caribbean Red, Cherry Bomb, Dulce, Early Sunsation, Fat and Sassy, King Arthur, Northstar, Red Knight, Serrano del Sol, Sahuaro, Super Chili, Valencia, many more…De Ruiter pepper varities…
Pumpkin: Buckskin Pumpkin, Orange Smoothie, Prizewinner, more…
Spinach: Bolero, Cypress, Melody, Unipack 151, many more…
Squash: Autumn Delight, Blackjack, Bush Delicata, Butterstick, Daisy, Early Butternut, Fancycrook, Gold Rush, Latino, Lolita, Patty Green Tint, Really Big Butternut, Seneca (all), Sungreen, Sunny Delight, Table Ace…
Tomato: Amsterdam, Baby Girl, Big Beef, Beefmaster, Beaufort, Beefmaster, Betterboy, Burpee’s Big Boy, Celebrity, Favorita, First Lady I and II, Early Girl, Geronimo, Golden Girl, Maxifort, Pink Girl, Sunguard, Sun Chief Sweet, Sweet Baby Girl, Sweet Million, Trust…link to De Ruiter tomato varieties…
Watermelon: Bambino, Crimson Glory, Royal Flush, Royal Star, Stargazer, Starbright, Stars and Stripes, Tiger Baby, Yellow Doll
As an alternative way to check on seed, visit the non-profit Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) Organic Products Database.
Monsanto Seed Names
Here are some of the brand names that Monsanto owns and ‘packages’ their seeds as:
American Seeds, Asgrow, Barham, Campbell, DeKalb, De Ruiter, Diener Seeds, Fielder’s Choice, Fontanelle, Genecorp, Gold Country Seed, Hawkeye, Heartland, Heritage Seeds, Holdens, Hubner Seed, icorn, Jung Seed Genetics (no affiliation with family owned, Jung Seed), Kruger Seeds, Lewis Hybrids, Peotec, Petoseed, Poloni, Rea Hybrids, Seminis, Seymour’s Selected Seeds, Specialty, Stewart, Stone Seed, Trelay, Western Seeds.
But remember seed companies buy Monsanto seed in bulk, and then repackage it under their name as well.
For large graph showing all of Monsanto’s seed and pesticide companies see: https://msu.edu/~howardp/seedindustry.html