What’s That You’re Eating??

What's That You're Eating??!!

G.M.O, hybrid, heirloom. . .why should you care?.

What is a g.m.o. vegetable?

The three letters G. M. O. stand for “genetically modified organism”. The term describes a living organism that has had its genome altered by genetic engineering methods, or recombinant DNA technology. This process produces transgenic organisms and is used primarily in pharaceutical production and gene therapy.

It is also being used to grow food.

Genetically modified seeds have unnatural combinations of genes. These combinations are crafted by humans working in a laboratory. They take a gene from one variety, species or entirely different organism and insert it into the genome of another. This new gene combination gives rise to a new organism with a unique combination of traits. This way, genes from different organisms are brought together to genetically engineer new DNA patterns which could not happen in nature. An example of this is Bt- corn.

This g.m. corn has, within its DNA, genes from a bacteria called Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) that produces certain protein crystals naturally. Under natural conditions, the genes from that bacteria do not interact with those of corn and those protein crystals don’t show up in corn plants.

Now, it was discovered that Bt naturally has proteins which are specifically toxic to caterpillars and caterpillar like creatures.   And so Bt makes a very effective pesticide against the corn borer. This nasty pest invades corn stalks, eats them from the inside, and damages the crop severely reducing harvests.

So someone got the idea,

Why not see if we can get the corn to produce this pesticide itself?

Thus, Bt-corn was created.

Then How Do You Recognize Bt Corn At The Market???

You don’t!

Harvested Bt corn looks just like any other corn. You simply can’t see any difference. Typically, you can’t taste the difference either.

Nevertheless, the corn seed does contain Bt proteins.

So when we consume Bt corn we consume the Bt protein. Do we want to be eating a pesticide?

If you want to know if what you’re looking at is Bt corn, you’ll have to ask.

 

The Status of GM Vegetables Today

While more genetically engineered foods are being crafted each year, the majority of fruits and vegetables on the market today, are either hybrid or heirloom in nature. Hybrids being the most common.

So What Makes a Hybrid, not a G.M.O?

First, hybrids are not created in a laboratory.

Their creation does not involve taking genes from one species and inserting them into another. Unlike g.m.o.s, which are only created in labs, hybrids occur in nature. Hybrids are really crossbreds. A crossbred is produced through cross-pollination, a natural process that occurs between members of the same or similar plant species.

To produce a hybrid, the cross-pollination is controlled.

Instead of a plant being pollinated by bees, wind or birds, at random, a person takes pollen from one plant variety and hand-pollinates a chosen plant of another variety. The resulting seed is then grown out to see if the desired results were obtained. It can take many many hand pollinations to come up with a desirable result. The seeds are grown out and then only the seed from the best results are retained.

It can take many years of careful selection and hand pollination to arrive at a hybrid that has the traits sought after.

The Benefits of Hybrids??

Improvements include size of fruit, colour, increased yield, improved pest and disease resistance, better drought tolerance, bushier growth habit, and so on.

Unlike genetically modified organisms, the resultant hybrids possess only genes inherited from its parents. None of its genes are spliced in from other sources.

The process of hybrid seed production is like artificial insemination, where semen from one animal is manually taken from one and implanted to fertilize the ova of another. The process occurs in nature, but now it is done artificially by a manual transfer of DNA from male to female. If the male and female are of two different breeds then the offspring will be a crossbred, or hybrid.

In vegetable production, crossbreeding has brought many improvements such as increased vigour, improved disease resistance, more consistent production, and much higher yields per plant and per acre. Sometimes crossbreeding has resulted in increased shelf life and storability. It has also brought us an increased variety of products to choose from such as, Broccoflower (broccoli crossed with cauliflower), Broccolini (broccoli crossed with Chinese broccoli) and Spinach Chard (a cross between spinach and chard).

 

What’s new becomes heritage!

After many generations of breeding and selection, a hybrid can become stable, such that its offspring become very predictable in exhibiting the same traits from generation to generation. This is how many or the heirloom, or heritage varieties we have today came from.

What's So Good About Heirlooms?

“Heirloom” and “heritage” are older varieties that have stood the test of time.

These varieties are over 50 years old, with many going back well-before World War II. While many of these were originally hybrids developed by plant breeders and sold by seed companies years and years ago, others were backyard projects. Individuals, farmers and families grew and saved seed from their favourite varieties year after year, and passed the seed on from generation to generation.

All heirloom vegetables are open-pollinated, which means they can be pollinated by insects or wind without human intervention. They’re also stable in their characteristics from one year to the next. Often, the seed was grown in one region for many generations and became highly adapted for the local conditions. Naturally, the choice of selection reflected what the growers liked and valued most. High on the list, for many, was flavour.

They kept seed from the best tasting vegetables just because they were so good!

It’s no wonder, heirlooms today are considered so much better tasting! While many heirlooms do indeed taste great, they are often not the most reliable in producing a marketable harvest. So it only makes sense that they come with a higher price tag. Although growers are free to save heirloom seed for planting next season, they often end up with less volume of nice-looking market quality vegetables to offer from each seed planted.

So the choice is yours –

G.M.O, Hybrid, or Heirloom??

At Green Hart Farms, we choose to avoid g.m.o.s.

We eat what we grow here, and it somehow just doesn’t feel right eating plants with pesticides already in them. Even though several g.m.o.s have been declared safe by the FDA, they remain controversial. Many countries even ban or severely limit their use in food production.

I don’t know if they’re good or not, but - I like to know what I’m eating. Do you?

What do you think about this??

We’re sticking with heirlooms and hybrids, always seeking out the best varieties for our local conditions and our clients.

We do save some seed from our own crops to help ensure that we will continue to have varieties that are well-adapted to our local conditions. We continue to grow the best we can while avoiding synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides and G.M.O.'s. For us its quality ahead of volume to bring you the best value in a fresh harvest season after season.

To snag your share of the harvest for 2018 join our Hartshare Veggie box program. Since we are the growers, the supply is limited!

2 thoughts on “What’s That You’re Eating??

  1. Hello Kendra,
    Thanks for the article and that was very interesting about the GMO and hybrid and heirloom.
    I look forward to see you at our Cambridge Farmer’s Market.
    Alain and I and our dog Duke have been going almost every week the whole winter.
    I am so thankful that you do not use GMO
    Thanks for taking the time to let us know.
    Danielle with the read hair.

  2. Thanks for the interesting straightforward lowdown on the three: GMO, hybrid and heirloom. Can’t wait to taste this year’s harvest!
    A long time admirer of our local responsible farmers!

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