GMOs, Hybrids, Saving Seeds, and Monsanto

If you have a home garden, do you blindly trust your chosen seed company? Do you save your heirloom seeds? Are you concerned with buying “non-GMO” seeds? What about hybrid seeds? Here’s the scoop…

First, you CAN’T buy GMO seeds. No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to purchase GMO seeds, so don’t concern yourself with that. GMO seeds are sold to large-scale farming corporations, and even if you could find some for your home garden, you probably wouldn’t be able to afford them. So, when you see “non-GMO” on the packaging, yes, of course they are non-GMO. GMO seeds are not available to the public.

What about hybrids? Hybrids are a cross between two plants. Sort of like a golden doodle is a cross between two dogs. You can breed that dog or save the seeds from that plant, but you will NOT get a perfect golden doodle or a perfect hybrid tomato plant. The genetics are just not there. In the dog case, you don’t get a second-generation golden doodle, you get a mutt. Same with plants. You can certainly experiment with saving the seeds, and you may get lucky and get a tomato you love, but it won’t be a true hybrid of two plants. It will be a second generation seed, maybe showing more poodle than golden, or the other way around. And who knows what the third generation would bring.

Why do they create hybrids? When you take the best qualities of two different plants, you get a new plant that has those qualities. The same way as getting a friendly golden retriever personality in a dog that doesn’t shed. Mostly, hybrids are created to be pest resistant, drought tolerant, have consistent ripening, or any of a dozen other good traits. Therefore, hybrids aren’t bad. They’re actually often a lot easier to grow. The only bad part is you have to buy new seeds every year. You should also understand hybrids, such as Better Boy Tomatoes and Early Girl Tomatoes, are patented and owned by the company who created them. So, who is that?

Well, there’s the rub.

Brief history:

A large seed company named Seminis, created in 1994, supplies a large portion of the world’s seeds. According to public records, the estimate of Seminis seed-supply in the U.S. is 40%. In U.S. supermarkets, they supply the seeds for 55% of the lettuce, 75% of the tomatoes, 85% of the peppers. They also supply a hefty percentage of seeds for beans, cucumbers, squash, and melons. You’ve probably never heard of Seminis, but if you’ve ever eaten a salad, you’ve surely eaten their product. In 2017, Seminis reportedly supplied 34% of the seeds worldwide.

In 2005, Seminis was acquired by Monsanto, the same company that created DDT, Agent Orange, and Round Up. All of the seed companies that had gotten their seeds from Seminis had to make a decision – find another seed supplier or continue buying from Seminis, which now lined the pockets of Monsanto. (Side note: Bayer bought Monsanto in 2017 and the name Monsanto is no longer used.)

A few companies broke ties with Seminis and have spent the last 16 years developing their own seed product lines. Bakers, Territorial, Johnny’s all decreased or stopped doing business with Seminis. Some companies, Burpees, Gurney’s, Michigan Bulb Company, continue their relationships with Seminis. What you see now are two extremes – Bakers and such offering heirloom seeds and the catalogues from Burpees and such offering mostly/only hybrid seeds.

Whether you support Monsanto or think it’s the devil, the problem remains. Hybrid seeds are patented and you cannot successfully save the seeds to plant the same produce next year, so you have to purchase new seeds every single year. If your goal is to be more self-sufficient by planting your own veggie garden, you have essentially taken the control of your food source from the grocery store and given it to Monsanto.

There are rumors that some seed companies are OWNED by Monsanto. Let’s be clear – there are NO seed companies like Burpees, Territorial, etc. OWNED by Monsanto. That’s just not true. There are companies with contracts for seeds from Monsanto-owned Seminis. You need to decide for yourself which companies you will support with your seed purchases.

As someone who is striving to be more self-sufficient, I still love those easy to grow Better Boy Tomatoes, but supplying my own heirloom tomatoes is my goal. Monsanto or no Monsanto, you can’t even buy heirloom seeds from some seed companies anymore. Don’t place your trust in yet another mega-corporation. Do your research and make the best decision for you.

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