About Seed Bank
From the principle of preserving the vegetarian hereditary sources, UAWC started establishing the Palestinian local seeds bank in the city of Hebron in correspondence with UAWC’s national and traditional duty to protect the local brands from loss and extinction; especially since Palestine is renowned in certain local vegetations. The problem rises from the fact that farmers are continually replacing local seeds with genetically-modified company-manufactured brands that are inept and inadequate with the surrounding environment, and from which farmers cannot yield a sufficient seed stock. In comparison, local seeds can be produced, stored, improved, and utilized by farmers as a seed stock for the upcoming agricultural season, and they are already oriented with the environmental surroundings and immune to the local viruses and diseases.
Extending from UAWC’s work in the field of reproducing and improving local seeds for vegetation crops since 2003 and up until now, 35 kinds of crop vegetation and field crops have been reproduced and improved, and their hereditary sources are being preserved in the seeds bank in accordance with the suitable preservation methods.
Local seeds are considered as a national natural treasure for every community. They are considered as a source of national sovereignty over a nation’s control on its provisions. They also constitute a cheap available resource for farmers living in their local communities, and they are a resource on which a large number of impoverished people depend on.
The importance of establishing a Local Community Seeds Bank comes in terms of providing protection to local brands of seeds from the dangers which are lurking ahead, namely from Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs). In today’s world, there are several major companies which produce high-priced genetically-modified seeds which cannot reproduced. These companies are monopolizing the markets in some countries and, thus, are controlling the income of farmers and individuals operating in them. An example on such a case is Egypt. The Egyptian government signed the World Trade agreement, which allows major companies to sell their cotton seed products to Egyptian farmers, while also the Egyptian farmers were prohibited from producing large quantities of local Egyptian cotton (long fiber brand). The Egyptian farmers are unable to reproduce the new cotton seeds (short fiber brand), and are obliged to pay large sums of money for acquiring the new seeds.
On the basis on what has been said, no one is entitled to manipulate this national treasure, i.e. local seeds, intentionally or unintentionally. The responsibility of preserving this national resource lies on the shoulders of everyone involved, from the national official level and to the everyday man. The situation in Palestine is dire since local seeds are not attended to or preserved, and within the last 15 years, they have been neglected and subjected to the danger of extinction. In addition, they are losing their original traits due to crossbreeding with other brands, and which resulted in breeds which have bad traits and are inadequate to the local environment.
The situation in the Palestinian territories is subjected to the dangers of GMOs, especially since Israel comes in second place after USA as countries depending on genetic modification, and which decline to declare the brands and products which are genetically modified. They also refuse to adhere a notifying label on such products which refer to the ratio of genetic modification found in the products. It is worth mentioning that European countries set conditions concerning dealing with GMOs and request that products which contain GMOs should have a label on them which show the percentage of genetic modification found in such products when the ratio is between 1-5%. If the ratio is below 1%, then there is no restrictions on such products to enter the European markets. However, any product with a genetic-modification ratio above 5% is totally prohibited from entering the market.
Since Palestinian territories lack any jurisdiction on its borders and entry points, and since it is quite manageable and easy to introduce GMOs into Palestinian markets, and since Israel has no ethical problems in considering Palestinians as their lab rats, it is then quite possible that Genetically-modified Organisms have entered the Palestinian markets.
It is the place where seeds are stored for a short-term in order to be used in agriculture, or for a long-term for preservation. The Seed Bank is considered one type of Hereditary banks.
Aims of Local Community Seeds Bank:
Protecting, preservation, and documentation of the seeds which belong to vegetable and grain brands in the Hebron area. This will be done by revitalizing and activating the use of traditional local seeds and by benefiting from their hereditary resources, and by documenting these resources through the use of biotechnology. In addition, the hereditary resources will be preserved by implementing the concept of sustainable agriculture in the framework of the local community
The Local Community Seeds Bank functions as a reinforcement system for revitalizing and reintroducing the lost breeds, or those on the brink of extinction, through the following mechanisms:
General Working Mechanism:
- Specification, collection, choosing, and creation of mechanisms which can provide farmers and individuals with original brands of seeds.
- Improvement of seed breeds through selection by using the method of improvement through participation, and also increasing the quantity of seeds, as well as storing and preserving them.
- Establishment of a data-base which contains the detailed information about each brand, and which include appearance and hereditary traits.
Henceforth, UAWC’s Seeds Bank consists of several units, each with its designated assignments:
Seeds Bank Units:
1- Storage Unit:
The well-preservation of seeds; it preserves the vitality of seeds and secures that they are not subjected to damage by the many factors, such as, the conditions of the seeds, temperature, humidity, and pest infections. It is the unit in which seeds are stored within suitable and adequate conditions, and it involves:
- Storage in room-temperature conditions 25° (short-term storage).
- Storage in 4° conditions (medium-term storage)
- Storage in -20° conditions (long-term storage).
2- Registration Unit:
This unit deals with receiving seeds from diverse sources (farmers, organizations…etc). As soon as they are received, a form is filled which contains all the required details about these seeds; source, location, place, time of planting, time of harvest, total weight. They are then transferred to the processing unit where they are cleaned, sanitized, and screened and then packed. In addition, a sample will be sent to the lab so as the required tests are run on the sample.
3- Drying Unit
After receiving the sample, its humidity rate is measured in order to dry the seeds in this unit in case the sample showed that the humidity ratio is higher than average. The unit also works on received fruits, where seeds are extracted from these fruits in the lab, and are later put to dry. The drying process occurs in special conditions, where it is best done at 25°, and with a humidity percentage of 10-15%. However, each brand requires a special drying temperature.
4- Data-Base Unit
All data collected about the seeds in the registration unit, in addition to photographs, are entered in the Seeds Bank data base. The aim of this unit is to preserve the special data of each brand in terms of its original traits. This helps control and stop the deterioration and loss of the seeds. After entering all the available data, each entry is given a unique code which is directly related to the information about the brand. This facilitates the working procedures of the seeds bank and eases dealing with all the entered information. The entries are identified by their local Arabic names and English names, as well as their scientific names and scientific categorization. Any experiments done on any entry is also documented in the data base.
5- Distribution Unit
It is the unit which deals with those interested in benefiting from the local community seeds bank. These can be farmers, students, researchers, or other interested individuals and organizations. The distribution process is thus under inspection and related to the available quantities of seeds which are meant to be distributed in the Seeds Bank.
6- Reproduction Unit
It is the unit dealing with reproducing seeds, each brand in accordance with its special method. This is done by planting seeds in several locations which are environmentally different, in such quantities which can provide the Seeds Bank with the required quantities of seeds, especially in case of seeds found in small quantities. It also deals with producing larger quantities of the brands meant to be distributed.
7- Local Community Seeds Bank Laboratory Unit
It consists of a laboratory which is equipped with the required devices needed to test the seeds in the seeds bank after the reception, cleansing, selection, and data entering of the seeds.
Several tests are performed on the samples after their registration such as:
§ Measuring the seeds blossoming ratio.
§ Liveliness and vitality of the seeds.
§ Purity ratio.
§ Humidity ratio.
In light of the results from the experiments, the seeds are prepped fro storage in the Storage Unit.
In the same context, UAWC is establishing a Genes Bank in collaboration with the biotechnology department in the Palestinian Polytechnic University through providing a hereditary imprint for all the brands, and through verifying their originality and purity.
The importance of establishing a Local Community Seeds Bank comes in terms of providing protection to local brands of seeds from the dangers of extinction and from the dangers which are lurking ahead, namely from Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs).
The responsibility of protecting and preserving this national treasure lies on the shoulders of everyone, starting from the official national level, and down to the level of the everyday man.