“Heirloom vs. Hybrid vs. GMO seeds and crops”
Heirloom vs. Hybrid vs. GMO seeds and crops
Deciding what to grow this season, choosing the right seeds and growing methods….
By Dulce Levitz
It’s that exciting time of year to get out in nature and our hands in the dirt!
It can be confusing deciding what seeds and plants to grow; well here’s a rundown on the choices out there and their advantages and disadvantages.
“Heirloom” variety is a plant variety that has a history of being passed down within a family or community.
A Heirloom variety must be open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirlooms. While some companies create heirloom labels based on dates (such as a variety that is more than 50 years old), Seed Savers Exchange identifies heirlooms by verifying and documenting the generational history of preserving and passing on the seed.
Heirloom seeds are wonderful! “Back in 1998 I received some Amish paste tomato seeds from Amish friend; every year I save the new generation of seeds and have a wonderful supply year after year; these are still the best tomato plants and tomatoes I grow. These types of seeds are a great choice for seed saving.”
“Open pollinated“ generally refers to seeds that will “breed true.” Open-pollinated varieties are also often referred to as standard varieties or, when the seeds have been saved across generations or across several decades, heirloom varieties.
A second use of the term “open pollination” refers to pollination by insects, birds, wind, or other natural mechanisms. The seeds of open-pollinated plants will produce new generations of those plants; however, because breeding is uncontrolled and the pollen (male parent) source is unknown, open pollination may result in plants that vary widely in genetic traits.
Because there are no restrictions on the flow of pollen between individuals, open-pollinated plants are more genetically diverse. … As long as pollen is not shared between different varieties within the same species, then the seed produced will remain true-to-type year after year. Some plants (such as many crops) are primarily self pollenizing and also breed true, so that even under open pollination conditions the next generation will be (almost) the same. These types of seeds are a great choice for seed saving.
“Hybrid” In agriculture and gardening, hybrid seed is seed produced by cross-pollinated plants.
Hybrid seed production is predominant in agriculture and home gardening. If you save and grow seeds from an F1 hybrid plant, don’t expect a similar plant in the next generation; this is one disadvantage of hybrid seeds. The resulting plants in the second generation are usually much lower yielding, have less vigor, and are quite variable in their physical characteristics. You don’t know what you are going to get, and usually you’ll lose all the advantages you had in growing the original hybrid. In other words, all of the hybrid seeds planted by the farmer will produce similar plants while the seeds of the next generation from those hybrids will not consistently have the desired characteristics. Controlled hybrids provide very uniform characteristics because they are produced by crossing two inbred strains. Elite inbred strains are used that express well-documented and consistent phenotypes (such as high crop yield) that are relatively good for inbred plants. Hybrids are chosen to improve the characteristics of the resulting plants, such as better yield, greater uniformity, improved color, disease resistance. Not the best choice for seed saving.
“GMO Seeds” If we think about it humans have been genetically modifying plants and animals for years; seeds are no different. Many, as well as myself argue that the long term effects of these seeds and plants on our bodies, as well as, the the impact on our environment is unknown.
GMO Seeds: The Consequences…
Biotech firms like Monsanto argue that the GMO seeds they create are so unique that they need to be patented; something that has far-reaching and devastating effects on the global economy.
Unlike the seeds listed above, GMO seeds are not created using natural, low-tech methods. GMO seed varieties are created in a lab using high-tech and sophisticated techniques like gene-splicing.
Furthermore, GMO seeds seldom cross different, but related plants. Often the cross goes far beyond the bounds of nature so that instead of crossing two different, but related varieties of plant, they are crossing different biological kingdoms: like, say, a bacteria with a plant.
GMO seeds, in some cases are genetically modified with genes from fish, herbicide-resistant proteins and other chemicals, rather than DNA from another plant. They are also designed to be resistant to pesticides such as (Glyphosate), (N-(phosphonomethyl glycine) which is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant. It is an organophosphorus compound, specifically a phosphonate. It is used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops. It was discovered to be an herbicide by Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970. Monsanto brought it to market in 1974 under the trade name Roundup.
For example, Monsanto has crossed genetic material from bacteria known as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) with corn. The goal was to create a pest-resistant plant. This means that any pests attempting to eat the corn plant will die since the pesticide is part of every cell of the plant.
The resultant GMO plant, known as Bt Corn, is itself registered as a pesticide with the EPA, along with other GMO Bt crops. In other words, if you feed this corn to your cattle, your chickens, or yourself, you’ll be feeding them an actual pesticide, not just a smidgeon of pesticide residue.
Those that are genetically altered like corn, soy, and cucumbers seeds that grow into plants unaffected by pesticides, herbicides and other adverse conditions such as drought. Soils are also affected and depleted by growing GMO crops and the use of these pesticides and these growing methods.
Many fruits such as apples and berries are sprayed with these pesticides as soon as the buds appear; In other words, I believe as do many, that this pesticide residues now become part of the fruit, and this cannot be washed away.
Sadly, we do not know the long term effects of GMOs on the body and planet.
On the one hand, biotech firms like Monsanto argue that the GMO seeds they create are so unique that they need to be patented; something that has far-reaching and devastating effects on the global economy.
Yet on the other hand, the same firms argue that the GMO seeds are “substantially equivalent” to other seeds, so they have no need to be labeled, tested, or otherwise regulated.
So far, the U.S. government has allowed biotech firms to get away with this. However, some testing of GMO seeds has been done in other countries, and it takes investigative journalism found in books like Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating to expose just what’s at risk. Author: Jeffrey M. Smith
Roundup research in Rodale’s Organic Life…
It’s Raining Roundup
Each year, nonorganic farmers dump millions of pounds of Roundup on food crops. The levels are so excessive, that the federal scientists recently detected the weed killer in the air and rain. Veteran pesticide-exposure scientist Warren Porter, PhD, professor of environmental toxicology and zoology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, crunched the numbers and found the data collected by the United States Geological Survey scientists reveal exposure to Roundup could potentially alter your hormones, leading to obesity, heart problems, and diabetes.
Roundup Doubles Our Risk of Lymphoma
A major new review of 44 scientific studies found that glysphosate exposure doubles farmers’ risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The study authors theorize that Roundup disrupts the normal functioning of white blood cells, throwing your immune system into a sickened, dysfunctional state.
Roundup Flat-Out Kills Human Cells
In 2009, French researchers published a scientific paper in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology showing that low levels of four glyphosate formulations used in Roundup—levels far below what’s allowed in agriculture; levels on par with what’s in our food—all kill human umbilical, embryonic, and placental cells within 24 hours.
Roundup Is Killing Your Gut
Glyphosate isn’t just an herbicide; it’s registered as an antimicrobial agent in the U.S., too, thanks to its ability to wipe out a wide variety of pathogenic organisms. The problem is harmful pathogens like Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella, and E. coli are able to survive in the gut, but the “good guys” in your digestive tract, protective microorganisms, bacillus and lactobacillus, for instance, are killed off. This could set your digestive tract up for a nightmarish situation, including “leaky gut,” where the protective gut lining is compromised, allowing bacteria and toxins to escape into your bloodstream.
The use of glyphosate is also linked to the depopulation of bee colonies; has resulted in an 81 percent decrease in the monarch butterfly population, among affecting many other beneficial insects.
Many believe that GMO seeds and crops produce more, but in my experience this is not totally true, growing using organic methods yields a greater abundance; other benefits of growing and producing crops using these methods is not only the nutritional value to our bodies, but also a responsible way to be in harmony with nature and our planet; to be better stewards of the land and environment.
According to seedsavers.org…
Why Save Seeds?
People save seeds for lots of different reasons and there is no single right reason to get started saving your own garden seeds.
A typical package of 50 pepper seeds costs $3 or more, while transplants can cost $5 each! By growing food from seeds you have saved, you can significantly reduce the cost of producing healthy food.
Preserve Genetic Diversity
Lots of great varieties will never see the fame of a commercial seed catalog. Many of these unique plants only exist in the hands of one or two gardeners. Lend a hand and save some of those seeds that are in danger of disappearing!
Ever find the best tasting tomato from a seed catalog one year only to discover you can’t buy it anywhere the following year? Seed savers don’t have this problem!
Connect With Your Garden
Every seed holds a connection to the past and the future. Seeds connect us to our history, our culture, our family, and our sense of who we are.
Help Save the Bees
Insect pollinators perform a $24 billion service each year in the United States alone. And many of these species are in decline. While you wait around for your flowers to produce seeds, they are providing invaluable food for bees, butterflies, and beetles.
Seed saving and seed sharing go hand-in-hand; share with a neighbor, help a community garden become more self-sufficient, or take a new gardener under your wing and teach them how to save their own seeds.
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