The letters “GMO” make many people shudder. “Is the corn GMO?”, I am often asked. Why are people worried about GMO, and what does it all mean?
Genetically modified organisms, GMO, refers to a relatively new method in breeding, where DNA is manipulated in a laboratory by shooting a gene of one species into the gene of another, A famous case is the creation of a cold hardy tomato by inserting the gene of a cold hardy fish, a flounder, into the tomato seed’s gene pool. The resulting tomato could withstand freezing temperatures, but the whole story sounds fishy.
Only third world countries and the United States allow GMO food. It is banned in most countries, deemed unsafe, and not allowed to enter in trade. The main use of GMO’s is called “round-up ready” , meaning the GMO corn or soy fields can be sprayed with the herbicide round-up to kill weeds.
Round-up is by far the most profitable agricultural chemical ever invented. The symptoms of round-up poisoning are anxiety and nerve problems. These are treated with Prozac, by far the most profitable medical chemical ever invented.
When you visit Canada, you’ll find no corn syrup in the Coca Cola or other products. The devastating affects on health are recognized and avoidable. GMO technology may have a place in medical research, but most of the world refuses to take the risk of ingesting it.
Hybrid does not mean GMO. Hybrids have been around forever, as natural crossings of varieties with a species. We make a hybrid by taking the male pollen from a good tasting variety of sweet corn and pollinating the female flower of a corn variety that makes two ears to the stalk.
This seed, an F1 hybrid, will produce a field of good tasting sweet corn with each stalk producing two ears. But if we take this years seed and plant it, most of the crop will revert back to one of its grandparents, so hybrid seed is not saved and replanted.
We follow the example of most of the world and do not use GMO products. But we do plant hybrids. Our first two patches of sweet corn were hybrids, and so are some of our tomatoes and peppers. A hybrid combines many good qualities is a variety, like Better Boy tomatoes or Carmen peppers, but we have to buy seed for them next year.
Open pollinated, or heirloom, means you can save the seed and plant it the next year, which is the old time method. We have to be careful choose the very best for seed so that our strain of that variety improves and does not degenerate. Plants become adapted to the farm and your farming practices, such as kale, sweet potato and garlic we have been propagating for over 30 years.
Thirty-five years ago I hosted an organic conference and seed swap. An old farmer from Georgia gave Darrell some sweet corn seed and he’s been saving it ever since. Darrell came to a lecture I gave to the Master Gardeners and handed me a big bag of seed, and now we have a big patch of open pollinated sweet corn.
We are flagging ears to save for seed. As a community supported farm, our customers can ask me to grow this instead of hybrid corn. I guess they could ask me to grow GMO corn, but I doubt if anyone will.