A fellow blogger asked me to expound on the topic of heirloom/organic vs. hybrid/organic seeds. I’ve been putting it off because the subject is bigger than just seeds and begs a much more detailed account of what “sustainability” means to me and my partner. To answer the question simply though, Heirloom/organic = sustainable/healthy; Non-heirloom/non-organic = non-sustainable/potentially unhealthy. Heirloom seeds produce fruits and vegetables that in turn produce seeds that will make the same fruit and vegetable, over and over again, year after year. Non-heirloom, or hybrid or GMO seeds, do not. (That is not to say that all hybridized seeds are genetically modified. It is just a line that we’ve drawn in our personal sand about our purchases.)
First up, for those who are curious about the various types of seeds available out there, you have a ton of choices, and not all are created equal. They might each come packaged in a lovely catalog, or be alluringly displayed at your big box store checkout aisle. They are not.created.equal. It comes down to GMOs, or genetically modified organisms and the Great Monsatan. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly urge you to do so immediately: The World According to Monsanto. (It’s free to watch and disseminating it is encouraged by the film’s producers.) It describes in vivid detail how genetically modified foods are ruining lives and our planet.
It’s touted as a way to “feed the world,” when what it actually is is a genius way to make money off a circular reasoning, self-fulfilling line of products. They create genetically modified seed that resists say, Round-Up. Then the farmer is able is able to plant the resistant seed and use Round-Up to control weeds and not kill the plant. Sounds super-smart, correct? Except that Round-Up has been proven to cause DNA damage, birth defects, liver dysfunction, and cancer, is decimating bee and butterfly populations all over the word, and remains in the plant’s tissues through the life of the plant, meaning when we eat the plant, we eat the Round-Up.
Speaking only for myself and my partner, I can emphatically state that we do not want these products in our bodies, near our home, in the US or on the planet, period. They can fuck you up, they can fuck up the planet. Whoever Controls the Food Controls the World, and I don’t want these assholes in my yard.
Here’s a link to a site that gives a wealth of information, other links and studies, and videos. Google “GMO” and you’ll come up with thousands of hits, scientific studies, research papers (and even a few propaganda nuggets from Monsanto, BASF and Dow). (Yes! Chemical companies are in the food business and buying up seed companies faster than we can even blink. Monsanto, thanks for Agent Orange!) GMO foods are not required to be labeled as such in the United States, and to date, we are the largest country using GMOs to not require labels. No informed decision making for us, thanks to the gigantic GMO food lobby that owns our politicians.
In 2005, Monsanto purchased Seminis, the largest “developer, grower and marketer of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world” (from their website). Here’s what that means to the average home gardener (each of these widely available seeds is owned by Monsanto and has already or is undergoing some sort of genetic modification…DON’T BUY THESE SEEDS):
- Beans: Aliconte, Brio, Bronco, Cadillac, Ebro, Etna, Eureka, Festina, Gina, Goldmine, Goldenchild, Labrador, Lynx, Magnum, Matador, Spartacus, Storm, Strike, Stringless Blue Lake 7, Tapia, Tema
- Broccoli: Coronado Crown, Major, Packman
- Cabbage: Atlantis, Golden Acre, Headstart, Platinum Dynasty, Red Dynasty
- Carrot: Bilbo, Envy, Forto, Juliana, Karina, Koroda PS, Royal Chantenay, Sweetness III
- Cauliflower: Cheddar, Minuteman
- Cucumber: Babylon, Cool Breeze Imp., Dasher II, Emporator, Eureka, Fanfare HG, Marketmore 76*, Mathilde, Moctezuma, Orient Express II, Peal, Poinsett 76, Salad Bush, Sweet Slice, Sweet Success PS, Talladega
- Eggplant: Black Beauty, Fairytale, Gretel, Hansel, Lavender Touch, Twinkle, White Lightening
- Hot Pepper: Anaheim TMR 23, Ancho Saint Martin, Big Bomb, Big Chile brand of Sahuaro, Caribbean Red, Cayenne Large Red Thick, Chichen Itza, Chichimeca, Corcel, Garden Salsa SG, Habanero, Holy Mole brand of Salvatierro, Hungarian Yellow Wax Hot, Ixtapa X3R, Lapid, Mariachi brand of Rio de Oro, Mesilla, Milta, Mucho Nacho brand of Grande, Nainari, Serrano del Sol brand of Tuxtlas, Super Chile, Tam Vera Cruz
- Lettuce: Braveheart, Conquistador
- Melon: Early Dew, Sante Fe, Saturno
- Onion: Candy, Cannonball, Century, Red Zeppelin, Savannah Sweet, Sierra Blanca, Sterling, Vision
- Pumpkin: Applachian, Harvest Moon, Jamboree HG, Orange Smoothie, Phantom, Prize Winner, Rumbo, Snackface, Spirit, Spooktacular, Trickster
- Spinach: Hellcat
- Squash: Ambassador, Canesi, Clarita, Commander, Dixie, Early Butternut, Gold Rush, Grey Zucchini, Greyzini, Lolita, Papaya Pear, Peter Pan, Portofino, President, Richgreen Hybrid Zucchini, Storr’s Green, Sungreen, Sunny Delight, Taybelle PM
- Sweet Corn: Devotion, Fantasia, Merit, Obession, Passion, Temptation
- Sweet Pepper: Baron, Bell Boy, Big Bertha PS, Biscayne, Blushing Beauty, Bounty, California Wonder 300, Camelot, Capistrano, Cherry Pick, Chocolate Beauty, Corno Verde, Cubanelle W, Dumpling brand of Pritavit, Early Sunsation, Flexum, Fooled You brand of Dulce, Giant Marconi, Gypsy, Jumper, Key West, King Arthur, North Star, Orange Blaze, Pimiento Elite, Red Knight, Satsuma, Socrates, Super Heavyweight, Sweet Spot
- Tomato: Amsterdam, Beefmaster, Betterboy, Big Beef, Burpee’s Big Boy, Caramba, Celebrity, Cupid, Early Girl, Granny Smith, Health Kick, Husky Cherry Red, Jetsetter brand of Jack, Lemon Boy, Margharita, Margo, Marmande VF PS, Marmara, Patio, Phoenix, Poseidon 43, Roma VF, Royesta, Sun Sugar, Super Marzano, Sweet Baby Girl, Tiffany, Tye-Dye, Viva Italia, Yaqui
- Watermelon: Apollo, Charleston Grey, Crimson Glory, Crimson Sweet, Eureka, Jade Star, Mickylee, Olympia
* Marketmore 76 is a very old cucumber-variety. If you are ordering it from a seller of heirloom veggies, check with the dealer to make sure the seeds were not purchased from Seminis/Monsanto. If you buy the seeds from a big-box garden center, odds are they were purchased from the evil empire.
The bitch of it is, I’ve GROWN some of these in the past, not knowing what was in them or had been done to them. I still don’t know what’s in them, but I know not to grow them now.
Some seed companies that offer heirloom/non-GMO varieties:
- Sustainable Seeds
- Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
- Annie’s Heirlooms
- Johnny’s Seeds (check for heirloom varieties)
- High Mowing Seeds
So regarding the heirloom/organic vs. hybrid seed question, we view non-organic options as unhealthy, and we KNOW that non-heirloom means no sustainability. We’re on this farm for several reasons: Grow our own healthy food, sell some of that healthy food, donate healthy food.
Monsanto, Dow and BASF (among others) would have us unhealthy and dependent on them and upon the pharmaceutical industry for the rest of our (shortened) lives. To that I say: Hell No.
EDIT: 3/26/12: “Agent Orange” comes from Dow Chemical, not Monsanto.