Many NGOs and non-farming consultants support the idea of supplying farmers with reproducible seeds. Their intension is good, they want to enable farmers to spend less or nothing for the seeds and to be independent from seed-companies. Indeed, the aspect of reproducible seeds plays an important role in grain farming. But for many other plantations, seed reproducibility is not an issue. For farmers planting vegetables, extracting reproducible seeds from harvested vegetables and fruits is too elaborate. At the same time, in vegetable farming, only less than 10% of the total cost of inputs are born by the seeds – regardless if open pollinated or hybrid seeds are used. The bulk of the investment for vegetable farmers is attributed to labor, fertilizers, pesticides, trellising and watering. It is economically much more advantageous for the farmers to buy a new pouch of fresh vegetable seeds from the seed-company and not to extract seeds from their previous harvest. Other advantages of buying a new pouch of seeds are the standardized and high germination rate guaranteed by the seed-producing company for open pollinated as well as for hybrid seeds. In vegetable and fruit farming, it is even more advantageous to purchase the slightly more expensive hybrid seeds due to their very specific characteristics of the vegetables like shape, color, pest-resistance, taste and quantity of harvest per plant. Hence, buying non-reproducible hybrid seeds ensures that the farmers have a much safer overall investment, and a much higher guarantee of a successful harvest and saleability to the market. The key for totally poor backyard farmers is not that they extract seeds from their vegetables but that there are very small quantities of high quality seeds available. This enables the poor to start with a very tiny investment in the first planting circle and over the months and years increase their production area, investment and profit.
Reproducible seeds are seeds from plants that are able to produce new generations of the same plant. This is true for open pollinated varieties. Most Heirloom seeds are open pollinated, hence reproducible. Hybrid and GMO seeds don’t produce plants with good reproducing seeds – also, hybrid and GMO seeds have patents on them from the seed-companies, hence are legally not allowed to be reproduced by farmers.