Saturday, March 28, 2009

GMO vs Transgenic

Ever had a back of your head dialogue that argues the virtues of heirloom vs hybrid vs GMO vs Transgenic seeds/produce? I did, for a long time, and the lines between some of these were at best blurry...but that all changed the other night when I read great clarification on some of these terms in Paul Robert's The End of Food (I cannot recommend this book highly enough).

Most of you know this, but just in case, in the simplest of terms, the difference between heirloom seeds and a hybridized ones is that heirloom are seeds that have been saved (as intact as possible genetically speaking) over long periods of time and passed from generation to generation.

While hybrids are the product of the crossing of existing plants in a way that certain positive traits (e.g., heat tolerance or resistance to a particular pest, etc.) are made more prominent and reliable over several times of recrossing. Nothing inherently evil about this, farmers have been at the helm of this natural selection process for years.

The up side of hybridization: positive traits that will make your veg healthier and/or produce higher yields.

The down side of hybridization: while seeds can be saved and planted again (never seen the seed police around my house...oh wait...forget that, they were perusing my blog extensively right after I did a posting that had the word "Monsanto" in forget I said that)...but they are highly unlikely to produce a plant with the exact same traits and their yield will decrease uddles...believe me, I have tried it with tons of stuff. Not really worth your dime or time. That is why it is so disappointing when you grow, say, jalapeño seeds from store-bought produce...unless the jalapeños happen to be heirloom.

On the other hand we hear a lot of hoopla about Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, turns out that the proper way to refer to what we normally call GMOs is transgenics... below is a great explanation straight from Paul Robert's The End of here goes it, unadulterated by me...well, except for the tiny words added in parentesys on the frist line:

"...Instead of random crosses (which is what farmers have been doing for eons), geneticists will be able to select superior parents by looking directly at their genes and then crossing only those plants, dramatically boosting the odds of superior offspring. And whereas conventional breeders must cross and recross the same genetic material, transgene companies can now essentially upgrade that genetic material from another organism or manipulating an organism's existing DNA."

My understanding of the ugly side of transgenics is that this is the type of technology used for the Round-Up Ready seeds, terminator seeds (***) and some other insanely ignorant, selfish and irresponsible stuff.

If you want to find more info just go to YouTube and type 'Monsanto' and you'll find incredible documentaries that will scare the pants outta ya...but will also help you better understand where your food comes from and how to garden and eat in a better way.

(***) Terminator Seeds--> produce a plant that won't complete its normal life cycle of flowering and producing seed...these plants literally drop dead at the point in which a normal plant would flower and produce seed. This makes more farmers dependant on companies like Monsanto, Dow, et al for their sustenance...they are trying to approve this psycho-tech as we 'speak') is more info on this issue.

When I am done reading this book I have to make good on my promise of posting what I got from it...and a bunch of other books...but will do that after we are done with a bunch of garden and home upgrades we are working on...sorry Charlie ☺

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