GMOs vs hybrids

Thu. Feb. 27, 2020

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: GMOs vs hybrids

Hybridizing, genetically modified and genetically engineered.  Hmm, is there a difference?  Well, yes. VERY basically, hybrids are created “in the field”, while genetically modified are created “in the lab”.

Modifications aka genetic mutations take place in every living thing naturally.  When 2 people have a baby, there’s some mutation going on.  Not sure that’s real romantic but, I hope, you catch my drift.

Hybridizers have been modifying plants since agriculture began, it used to take 6 to 10 generations to change characteristics.  Modern hybridization speeds up that process considerably. Using a method of controlled crossing devised by Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel in the mid-19th century, plant breeders can now produce seed that combines the desired traits of two pure parent lines in the first generation. This creates a new variety known as an “F1 hybrid.”

Tomato ‘Red Race F1’

To create F1 seed, seed companies grow two parent lines in the field each year, designate the male and female parents, carry out pollination under controlled conditions such as hand-pollination under row cover and then harvest seed from the females.  

Click HERE for a great article from Mother Earth News explaining this form of plant breeding much more fully. 

Genetically Modified (GMO) varieties are created in a lab using highly complex technology, such as gene splicing. These high-tech GM varieties can include genes from several species – a phenomenon that almost never happens in nature. It includes the introduction of a bacteria into a plant for specific pest resistance.  Another way to explain this is to say that a GMO could cross a plant with a fish.  Two completely different species.

Some scientists say GMO foods are safe. Check out this article from National Geographic.  Another article from Scientific American still trying to answer the question.  And from the Food & Drug Administration.

Public opinion continues to sway in all directions. It’s a difficult thing to wrap our heads around.  GMO’s are generally associated with big business who are pumping millions of dollars into this technology.  I’m not going to say ALL GMO’s are bad, frankly, I don’t know.  But the scary part is, neither does anyone else.  It takes years and years of research to discover the ramifications of what we do.  As we’ve all witnessed through the years, here are a couple of minor ones.  Butter’s bad, no it’s not.  High cholesterol is bad, well unless it’s HDL. Or how about tobacco? Or sugar substitutes?

There’s a lot of money at stake here and each side can go to extremes to make their point, and they do.  It would be great to have a conversation without politics, money or fear involved.