Winter brings seed catalogs for browsing as we plan our Spring gardens. As you make plans for your garden, you might consider what is in those seed varieties.
You’re probably well aware of the GMO controversy. Some are comfortable with a genetically modified variety that might increase disease resistance or reduce bug pests. Many people would rather avoid GMO plants, opting for a safer alternative. Does that mean you can’t plant anything other than heirlooms? Not at all. Let’s look at the seed and plant alternatives.
GMO seeds and plants have been genetically modified. They may have some genes deleted or modified, or they may have genes from another species inserted. While genes are sometimes modified in nature, GMO’s are artificially done. Many are concerned about the safety of the resulting plants. Also troubling is the unknown long range effects of these modifications on the environment including other plants and animals.
Hybrids, often labeled F1 for the first generation cross, are completely different. They are a mixed breed, an intentional cross between two other varieties to improve the performance, taste, or growth rate. Hybrids can be useful for the resulting product. The downside is that you cannot save back seeds for another crop as only about half of the seeds will give you the same hybrid result. One quarter will revert back to one parent type, the remainder to the other parent. For those that prefer to save their seeds, hybrids are not the preferred option.
Pure variety seeds are the result of careful selection over time to produce a variety that produces a similar product. Most of the plants and any resulting fruit will be quite similar. Gardeners can save back seeds for the next crop and expect to get the same. It’s also possible with these pure varieties to hold back seeds from the plants that produce only the best, thus improving the variety naturally.
Heirlooms are pure variety seeds that have been in existence for many generations, often dating back many decades or longer. Usually considered the most flavorful varieties, they each hold a special history that has kept their popularity.
Another consideration is organic or not. Some seeds are harvested from organically grown plants and stored using special methods. They will not have harmful chemicals added. Organic seeds are also, by definition, not GMO.
Which should you choose? That of course, is a personal choice. Purists might look to organic heirlooms or at least pure varieties only, while others might grow some hybrids for their unique properties. Whether or not to choose a gmo variety is also an individual decision, one worth investigating both sides of the issues.
Whatever seeds or plants you choose, it’s best to follow the planting and growing instructions for best results. Check with your county agent or a trusted gardening center, if you are not certain.
For more information on organic gardening, visit this site.