Deskilling, agrodiversity, and the seed trade: a view from contemporary British allotments

Paul Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last half-century, quality controlstandards have had the perverse effect of restricting the circulationof non-commercially bred vegetable cultivars inBritain. Recent European and British legislation attempts to compensate for this loss of agrodiversity by relaxing geneticpurity standards and the cost of seed marketing for designated‘‘Amateur'' and ‘‘Conservation'' varieties. Drawing on fieldwork conducted at a British allotment site, this articlecautions against bringing genetically heterogeneous cultivarsinto the commercial sphere. Such a move may intensify the horticultural ‘‘deskilling'' of British allotment gardeners,who have come to rely on commercial seed catalogs as sources of germplasm and knowledge. Horticultural deskillingalso entails the delegation of seed selection activities toprofessional breeders and the potential loss of agrodiversity.The activities of dedicated seed savers who save and circulate the seed of genetically heterogeneous ‘‘heritage'' varieties, ina manner similar to the management of landraces in the global South, may provide a better model for attempts to safeguard vegetable diversity in the global North.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-114
Number of pages14
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2012


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