- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota agriculture officials say a seed-sharing program at the Duluth library is on the wrong side of the law.

The seed exchange, one of about 300 such programs in the U.S., allows members to borrow vegetable seeds from the library in the spring and later return seeds they collect from their gardens. Program manager Carla Powers said about 200 members borrowed 800 packets of seeds in the first year of the exchange.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture caught wind of the program and has informed the library it is likely violating state seed law. Anyone who sells, trades or exchanges seeds in Minnesota must follow state rules and proper labeling. They must also pay a $50 fee and have the seeds tested to make sure they germinate, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1vAJ1VD ) reported.

“We didn’t consider ourselves to be selling seeds,” Powers said. “However, selling, in (the) Minnesota seed law, also includes free distribution or even exchange.”

Steve Malone, a supervisor in the state agency’s Plant Protection Division, said the department is working with the library to bring them into compliance with the law, which was intended to create a level playing field for seed companies and protect consumers.

“Our enforcement of this is to try to coach and bring them along, rather than just come in and blast them,” he said.

The biggest hurdle for the library is the germination testing. Malone said labs will usually test about 400 seeds to get a valid result, but doing that many will be difficult in Duluth, where most gardeners are only returning a few dozen seeds.

Malone said a gardener in Duluth could test a smaller sample size.

“That may be a way for them to do it,” he said. “It wouldn’t be as good as an official test … but it would at least give you an idea that you would know that most of them are live, or if nothing comes up, they’re all dead.”


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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