We asked our friend Laurent Penet to comment on a recent news item that reported the Kokopelli Association is in hot water with the authorities again. Below is his report. Have you got something to add? Let us know.
The Association Kokopelli, a French non-profit that aims to conserve the seeds of old varieties directly with the help of gardeners and volunteers, has been declared “Persona non grata” and can no longer work with the famous Sun King’s Vegetable Garden at Versailles. The decision, by the French Agriculture ministry is a serious blow to the organization.
The decision seems to follow the sentence against Kokopelli in February 2008, when the Association was fined 23 000 euros after a case brought by the seed industry, which wanted to prevent Kokopelli from organizing a citizen-based seed bank service.
While it is true that many Kokopelli varieties are not registered on the official listing and therefore cannot be evaluated nor referenced (and thus may not be distinguishable from other varieties or genetically stable), the main issue revolves around the right to “sell”and multiply varieties. Dynamic conservation of old and therefore endangered stocks and varieties is not yet integrated in the idea of biodiversity yet.
The Ministry’s decision is even more amazing, given President Sarkozy’s declaration that French gastronomy should become part of world heritage, and the fact that even modern recipes often make abundant use of old fashioned vegetables and varieties.