It seems that seed libraries, which allow users to ‘borrow’ seeds for planting and then return some that that collected from the plants they’ve grown, are illegal in some US states, as they include ‘giving away’ under their definition of selling seeds.
Seed libraries help gardeners share and access heirloom seed varieties, and also build local gardening communities.
Pennsylvania has such restrictions under its Seed Act 2004, which prevents anyone from selling seeds that have not been collected during the current year, undergone testing for purity, and been tested for germination rates. Over 400 seeds would be required to conduct such testing, making it impossible for a seed library to comply. The Penn Department of Agriculture has been notifying seed libraries popping up around the state they they are in violation of state law. It means seed libraries can only make commercially produced seed available, which totally defeats the point.
State authorities point out the “very real scenario” of a threat to American agriculture posed by ‘agri-terrorism’, where presumably a terrorist group lets loose contaminated seed on an unsuspecting US public via its seed libraries. Really?
Whatever you think of this bizarre proposition, if you’re part of a US seed library, check your state’s seed laws. Some only include ‘selling’ in their definitions others, like California, include ‘barter, exchange or trade’.
And read this excellent analysis of the position of seed libraries and state seed laws on Shareable.