Part IV – Hybrid, GMO, Safe Seed Pledge

Now for the perfect bridge over from “natural” to “man-engineered”…

Hybrids

Now the Hybrids I’m referring to occur outside the natural process of time and mother nature, but rather by breeders who intentionally manipulate the hybridization process to ultimately create a new more vigorous and higher yielding plant.

During my search, I found many seed companies that carried seeds for Hybrids right alongside with heirlooms, which included certified organic versions of both types of seeds. There were equally as many seed company websites that proclaimed to sell only Non-Hybrid seeds.

Here’s the overly simplified definition (repeated from a couple of posts ago): 

“A hybrid vegetable seed (an entirely new plant) results from the cross-pollination or mating between two different varieties or ‘parents’ within the same plant family”.

The process of hybridization is an old one dating back to as early as the late 1800’s (or earlier).  Being able to take the desirable traits such as disease resistance and size from two different parent lines then combine them to produce a more vigorous and uniform offspring, give breeders a powerful tool to reshape all sorts of plants.

Hybrid Highlights:

  • Hybrid seeds do not grow true to either parent plant; you must buy new seed for each growing season.
  • Hybrid offspring (first generation or F1) often have a noticeable increase in size, growth, vigor and yield beyond those of its parents. This is called heterosis (hybrid vigor).
    The first generation hybrid will typically show an increase in the desired characteristics of both parents.  The hybrid vigor is decreased when hybrids are mated together, so breeders must maintain and cross the parental lines to produce new crops of hybrid offspring.
  • Hybrids can perform better under a wider range of weather conditions and unseasonable weather.
  • Hybrids can also have higher yields, which can be particularly ideal for backyard gardeners with minimal gardening space.
  • Hybrids have good disease resistance.
  • Better selection of varieties available.

 

Untreated Seeds

The term “Untreated Seeds” basically means that the seeds have not been treated with chemicals.

Did you know that our government requires all seeds entering into our country to be chemically treated (fumigated) to kill any harmful pests or pathogens. And an interesting point a few sites brought up is the fact that in addition to the chemicals applied within our own borders, that in some countries, there is little regulation to ensure seed quality and seeds may have been treated with an assortment of chemicals prior to shipping overseas.

Concerned? Consider buying seeds from locally grown sources.

 

PVP or Patented Seeds

Plant Variety Protection (PVP) is a patent certificate obtained by breeders and agricultural development companies to gain intellectual property protection for new plant varieties.  PVPs protect sexually (seed) reproduced plants, tuber propagated plants, and F1 hybrids.  It also protects the rights of ownership for the individual(s) who develop and release a cultivar – for up to 20 years.

An important aspect for consumers is with PVP protection there is full disclosure of how the variety was developed and this information must be made available to anyone who wants it.

There is also a “Utility Patent” that can be obtained by breeders and agricultural development companies that further protect sexually reproducing plants (flowers and seeds) and genetically engineered plants; The protection gained from a Utility Patent can be broader to include trait claims.

What does all of this mean to the average gardener.  Unless you plan to collect hybrid seeds and resell them or reproduce a hybrid (or something similar to it) and sell it, then you have no worries.  Growers can collect and use the seed from PVP protected varieties for their OWN future planting without violating the law. Utility Patents do not provide this same benefit to growers.

Genetically Modified, Engineered or Altered

From what I could see during my research, these terms are very similar and for purposes of this post and for us average gardeners, we can consider them the same thing and I will refer to this topic for the remainder of this section as GM (Genetically Modified).

GM seeds look identical to any other seed whether it is organic, heirloom, open-pollinated or hybrid.  For that matter, it’s impossible to distinguish any of these seed types from one another or from a chemically treated seed.  Only a laboratory analysis can show the difference. I only saw one (1) company who actually stated that they test incoming seeds of known genetic modification such as beets, chard, corn, and alfalfa.

Here’s one definition I felt was easy to understand:

“Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are created by taking genes from organisms such as bacteria, viruses or animals and inserting them into other, often unrelated, species (like seeds). Unlike traditional breeding (like hybrids), genetic engineering creates new organisms that would never occur in nature.”

 

USDA’s site states the following:

“USDA supports the safe and appropriate use of science and technology, including biotechnology, to help meet agricultural challenges and consumer needs of the 21st century. USDA plays a key role in assuring that products produced using biotechnology is safe to be grown and used in the United States. Once these products enter commerce, USDA supports bringing these and other products to the worldwide marketplace.”

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=BIOTECH

 

Recent Advancements in GM

  • Herbicide resistant crops
    • Contain genes that enable the plant to degrade the active ingredient in herbicides rendering it harmless to the host plant
  • Pest resistant crops
    • Contain genes that produce Bt toxins that kill pests when the plant is ingested
  • Disease resistant crops
    • Fungus resistant
    • Virus resistant
  • Plants with altered compositions
    • Crops for healthier food and feed
      • modified oil content
      • modified to enhance levels of beta-carotene and other carotenoids
      • modified amino acid composition (higher protein content)
      • modified gluten-free wheat
      • modified to increase antioxidant compounds
      • modified to have a longer shelf-life (tomatoes, apples, raspberries and melons)
      • modified to reduce allergens and toxic substances
  • Pharma Crops
    • food that contains vaccines against a variety of diseases
  • Rice – modified with human genes
  • Pollution Reducing Plants, Trees and Crops
    • Modified to be stress resistant
    • Modified to be drought tolerant
    • Modified to be salt tolerant
    • Modified to eliminate pollutants
      • heavy metals
      • break down petroleum products
      • break down organic pollutants
      • detect the presence and toxicity of particular pollutants
      • extract cadmium from contaminated soils

 Good or bad?  Only you can decide.

This leads me to the last topic on my list…

Safe Seed Pledge and CRG

Several of the seed company websites I visited posted that they are in support of the “Safe Seed Pledge”, though  a number of them were absent from the Safe Seed Pledge signatory list.

What is the “Safe Seed Pledge”?
The Safe Seed Pledge is a program that was founded by the Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG). The pledge reads as follows:

“Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative.

We pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants.

The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms, poses great biological risks as well as economic, political, and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities.”

http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/ViewPage.aspx?pageId=261

 

Bottom-line:  If you want the seed you plant in your garden to adhere to certain standards – feel free to use the information I provided throughout my posts as a guide when you visit seed company websites or read through seed catalogs and packaging.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program… my transformation project. So, gotta get back to work.

God Bless,

The Artistic Desert Gardener

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