The Truth About Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's), Hybrids, Heirlooms and Your Vegetable Seeds - Call Them GEO's!

Publicado por Gary Pilarchik en

The Truth About Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's), Hybrids, Heirlooms and Your Vegetable Seeds - Call Them GEO's!

All flower and vegetable seeds you buy in seed packs, for a couple of bucks, are not Genetically Modified Organism or GMO's. They never were, currently are not and probably will never be. You have no need to worry when you buy a single pack of seeds. A seed pack stamped Non-GMO is no different than a seed pack not stamped Non-GMO. If you like the reassurance, that is cool, just know what you are paying for via the stamp.


The Rusted Garden: The Truth About GMO's


The term GMO is basically used to define a genetically engineered organism created in a laboratory in a way Nature could not create it.  Why is this important? It is important because hybrids are not GMO's by the above definition. However, genetic material is modified naturally in Nature. The term modified is misleading and confusing, GMO's should really be called GEO's or Genetically Engineered Organisms when a process is done Nature can't do and it is engineered in a laboratory.

Nature can create hybrids because hybridizing is nothing more than taking pollen from one plant variety and crossing it to another variety. The plants must be compatible for hybrids to work. I can, you can, bees or other insects can make hybrids. It is 100% safe and normal and it is Nature at work. Genetic material, again, gets modified by Nature. Genetic modification is not bad.

GMO's (though they should be called GEO's) take DNA or genetic material from any source and in some cases blast it into the DNA of another source. GMO's are made in many different ways, again in laboratories. This isn't good or bad. It is science, you may or may not agree with it but it important to understand laboratory GMO's are not found in the $2 pack of seeds you buy. They are, however, in the food you sometimes eat.

So don't worry.  GMO's are huge money makers and there are only about a dozen or two GMO vegetables out there.  You have to buy them in larger quantities that easily costs thousands  and thousands of dollars, you have to sign contracts to manage the seeds, you can't package and resell the seeds and you have to be a larger scale farm.

So... GMO is a bad term because it confuses people  A hybrid is taking pollen (natural and normal genetic material) from one plant and crossing it with another plant's natural and normal genetic material. Tomato to tomato. Pepper to pepper. Melons to melons. Roses to roses and the most famous reindeer of all is Pea to Pea.  Look up Gregor Mendel as he is the scientist and geneticist that worked on pea hybrids and cross pollination. Taking pollen and crossing it, does genetically modify the plant in a safe and normal way. That is what confuses people.  Plant hybridizers copy the way Nature does it. Hybrids are not the above definition of laboratory GMO's.


The Rusted Garden: The Truth About GMO's


Hybrids work by taking pollen and crossing it, as mentioned. The first generation of seeds, from the initial cross pollination, will have mixed characteristics (genetic material) from both varieties. Those seeds when planted, will give you the 'new' variety with crossed characteristics from both plants. In a sense their genetic material was modified.

In (very) brief, the new variety is not a stable cultivar, so when you save the second generation of seeds you won't get (100% of the time) the plant from which you saved the seeds. Hybridizers spend years continuing generations of the 'crossing' to get a stable cultivar. A stable cultivar means when you save the seeds of a tomato and plant those seeds, you get the same variety of tomato. Seeds after seeds, year after year, you get the same variety and characteristics. The plant is stable and called true to form. You always get the true form of the plant from which you saved the seeds.

Heirlooms are stable vegetables/cultivars. You always get the same type of plant and characteristics when you save and plant the seeds. Heirlooms are basically plant varieties/seeds (depending on what definition you use) that have been around 25, 50, 75 or even 100 years.  They are old and stable plant varieties but the definition on the number of years varies. In some case old original hybrids that were made and stabilized in the 1950's are considered heirlooms today.

The summary... Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) are genetically modified in a lab in a way Nature can not do it. They should be called Genetically Engineered Organisms (GEO's). Hybrids are made by crossing pollen or genetic material in a way that mimics Nature and it is a natural process. People just take the randomness out of it.  Heirlooms are old and stable varieties of vegetables and flowers.


Cheers,
Gary (The Rusted Garden)

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