Monday, February 20, 2012

Seed labeling...You say tomato and I say toma-gmo-to!

How do you know if your vegetable seed is a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)?
What is your label telling you or not telling you about your seed?

Some of the advances in seed technology are amazing, creating stronger, healthier, just down right gorgeous variates of plants. Gardner's and Farmer's are always looking at new ways to make a plant disease resistant or faster growing. Could you imagine Hosta's that were totally resistant to slugs or rose's immune to black-spot...oh happy days! This is all good news for the perennial bed and my shade garden, but do I really want these tampered with seeds in my veggie beds and at what cost to my garden and health? What is this plant really? What is the difference between all those labels and does it really matter?

You hear the terms, Organic, Hybrid, Heirloom, Genetically modified seeds a lot these days.
Organic seed is cultivated from a pure and clean seed. It must be from an organic (synthetic and chemical free) parent plant, using only organic methods of growth and disease control.
Heirloom can be both organic or chemically treated, heirloom by name are bred from generations of the same non-tampered seed, year after year and must be open air pollinated. If you like..the pure breed of seed.
Hybrid seed again can be organic or chemically treated and are produced when you cross pollinate/breed from the same variety to form a new plant (kinda like a Labradoodle half Labrador half Poodle) This helps produce plants that are disease resistant, a new color, larger in size...etc. This is how gardeners and farmers have developed new varieties for centuries and is not to be confused by the new Genetically modified way of tampering with seeds. Hybrid labels will sometimes include letters after the plant name, this is to show its disease tolerance.

Why do I not come across GMO seed packs in the store? Really though what is all this GMO seed about? What have they done to the seed to make that tomato grow 10x the size and not rot for 3mths? Will it effect me? What have they crossed this eggplant seed with to make it disease resistant not to mention resistant to pesticides? Sure a lot of this development comes from cross breading and age-old farming practices which is natural (see hybrid) but what is the difference?

Q. Isn't genetic engineering merely a minor extension of traditional breeding practices?

A. No. While farmers have used cross-breeding techniques to cultivate crop and animal species with desired characteristics, genetic engineering represents a radical departure from this practice. Cross-breeding can only occur within closely-related life forms. Genetic engineering allows scientists to cross the species barrier, mixing genetic material among of animals, plants and microorganism. The offspring of genetic engineering would never be found in nature. For example, fish genes have been placed in tomatoes, human genes in tobacco, bacteria in corn, and viruses in squash and fruit. - The Council for Responsible Genetics
Read the rest of article...mind blowing stuff!  

You hear the horror stories about commercial farming and the devastation that GMO's have created for our farmers. Particularly by the horrible miss-use use of super-seeds from companies like Monsanto, seeds created to be not only disease tolerant but tolerant of the weed killer that its sprayed with, genetically altered to grow faster and not to mention the suicide-seed so that the farmers can't harvest seed for next years crop, forcing them to buy more GMO seed every year...and this is the food we eat! Oh the global nightmare this has all become! Don't get me started on my rant!! breath, breath!!

OK, I'm calm again! I think this "not knowing" what our produce really is or where it's come from, or how it has been tampered with has inspired a number of us to start our own veggie gardens right here in our own backyards. There is something so comforting, being sure of what seed we are growing, what the soil and plant are being treated with and inevitably what we end up eating. Its simply re-assuring.

This begs the question, how do we know that the veggie seed we are growing in our own, safe, genetically modified free environment is just that? Do seed packs indicate how it came about? Where is the label, number or code to tell us that it has been tampered with genetically?

Seed industry structure table, I know its a little old, but still great resource to show you how "Owned" by big corporation our small pack seed is. Click link above for clearer pic and more info.

Unfortunately for now there is no mandatory labeling on seed packs when it comes to GMO's, just like the food we buy, we are in the dark. The best bet is buy locally direct from the seeder, buy certified organic and/or from these seed companies listed in the link below...These companies have signed the Safe Seed Pledge for 2012.

Really this whole practice is enough to send you to drink or in my case tears, curled up in the fetal position on the floor in the produce section of my local grocery-store...scared out of my mind about what we are really eating. Although thank god my produce section is conveniently located right next to the wine isle, thank you Fred Meyer.

The best thing we can do, is learn and listen to those telling us about what is happening in the world of seed, labeling and GMO's, ask questions from a variety of sources from both sides of the table...learn!
I am looking forward to growing my GMO free veggies this year!

More interesting food-for-thought articles and media....
Sustainable Seed Company's view on GMO's  great site for the latest in seed news developments  wonderful website for more updates, check out the awesome movie too! I love their product and their preservation towards seed Genomics? Government website, views from the other side of the table (not to get political though!)
Organic vegetables start out as seed  Great article to get you up to speed on the seed buy outs!
Other interesting documentaries...Food Matters and King Corn.


  1. You raise an interesting question ... There's a "blue" rose where they introduced a pigment that can't be found naturally in roses - seems harmless. On the other hand, disease resistant gm crops could turn into super-weeds.

    1. Thanks for sharing, I must look out for that blue rose, its all so interesting! There are just so many things to think about here, doing my part for the environment and being a steward to the ground I dig in, I just like to know what I am really growing and the potential damage I could be supporting. Its just all food for thought! Cheers Julia =)

  2. Yay! My seeds are on the safe seed list! Without even trying... lol.

    1. Yay!! Maybe it's a good omen ;) Hope your veg containers do well this year, I'm eager to hear of their development..Cheers Julia xx

  3. Replies
    1. I know, not my normal "look at the pretty flowers" type of post. I've had a number of friends ask me about this topic lately, so I've been reading quite a bit on it, its really interesting. I hope its more informative than opinionated but really wanted to share. Thanks for stopping by crafty Gardener!! Cheers Julia xx

  4. Great post! It's interesting to see the ownership of seed companies. You don't really understand the reach until you take a drive in the country and see signs like Syngenta, Hybritech and Dekalb on test plots, and there are lots of them completely within view of the road. Interesting to see Unilever has a small role in this. I don't think you can buy too much packaged food anymore without the Unilever brand on it. Thanks and I'll be sharing the link on my facebook and twitter if you don't mind?

  5. Julia, a eye awakening post, it's a scary world out there especially for those of us eating the end product.

    I don't really know how far reaching this is in Canada, but I have my worries...

    And thanks so much for taking off word verification, I do so love reading and commenting on your blog. One of my all time fav's.

    PS, if you could tell me, LOL what my Blotanical password is, I might be able to fav you also...but sadly I can't get back in, and it doesn't really work that well for me for the last year or so. It's been rather unresponsive.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  6. Thanks for the safe seed list. I have printed it out, and will definitely be using it! Good topic for discussion.

  7. I did know that most seed is treated with something such as an anti fungal coating. I tend to stick to organic seed except when I'm tempted by the pretty seed packets and the huge displays in the garden centres.
    I think GM crops will come into the UK by the back door. There is such pressure by multinationals for governments to accept it.
    At one point aminopyralid (produced by Dow chemicals) was banned in Europe (it for killing broad leaf weeds in grass crops but does hideous things to potatoes)but the ban has since been lifted and the farmers are back using it again. Bad news!

  8. Hi Julia, Great post! I've been reading about the court cases going on (NY) with organic famers and Monsanto, the primary problem being that organic farmers can no longer keep GMO seed out of their fields due to pollination. It is scary, I agree. All of the places I've ordered seed from this year say their seeds are free of GMO's but I wonder how long they will be able to guarantee this with Monsanto buying up land everywhere...

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Thanks for stopping by and reading my latest post! I love sharing my gardening adventures and reading your wonderful comments. Happy digging...Cheers Julia!!

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