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« Gardening for Victory | Main
Thursday
Jun022011

Heirloom vs. 'Frankenfood'

open pollinated seedsYou hear a lot of talk about heirloom seeds these days, which is a good thing. Heirloom, or open pollinated seed varieties that have been grown for over 100 years in some cases have delivered consistent, healthy produce for generations. But what exactly is the difference between an heirloom variety and a hybrid, or GMO   (Genetically Modified Organism)? GMO varieties result from Genetic Engineering which involves taking genes from one species and inserting them into another. For example, genes from an arctic flounder which has "antifreeze" properties may be spliced into a tomato to prevent frost damage. It is impossible to guide the insertion of the new gene, which can lead to unpredictable effects.

Heirlooms trace their ancestry back many years to a time when pesticides and herbicides were not in use. As Jere Gettle, the owner of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. puts it, “Basically, an Heirloom seed is one that has been passed down through families and is usually considered to be over 50 years old.” Unlike hybrid GMO’s, which cannot reproduce, Heirloom seeds can be saved and replanted, ensuring a trustworthy supply of family food year after year.

There’s no question that time tested heirloom varieties are a safe bet for you and your family, but science is murky about the long term effects of eating genetically modified food. In fact there is even a growing grass roots campaign to  force large agri-businesses to label GMO food as such, until it can positively assure the public through replicable tests that eating GMO food is safe.

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Reader Comments (1)

Wow! I had no idea that hybrid GMO plant seeds aren't able to reproduce. It puts a real emphasis on time-tested-family-values to harvest a season's crop and then dry and save the seeds. Thanks for posting this!

June 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

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