Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Organic Gardening Series: Genetically Modified Seeds

June 10th, 2010 · 15 Comments · Organic Gardening

No-GMO!  The latest in the organic gardening series by Rene of Budget Saving Mom:

corn field gmo crops To save money, we plant our garden from seeds. However, today a seed is not necessarily the type of seed that our grandparents would have planted. Many seeds have been genetically modified, had genes inserted in order to produce plants that are bigger, more insect resistant, or more desirable in some way. While that might sound like a good thing, there are really a lot of problems that can come up when you start messing around with the seeds that God originally created.

Genetically modified seeds produce genetically modified produce. There have been studies about the dangers of genetically modified foods that I have read, and as a result I try to limit our intake of these types of food. I am not a scientist; however, I know that what God originally created was good, and what man has done to food can not improve what He did, so it seems like trying to eat foods that are closest to how God made them is best.

(Katie note: GMOs is an entire post/week’s theme in itself, which hasn’t been done yet here at Kitchen Stewardship. Without having done a lot of research myself, I agree with Rene’s assessment and have a tacit mistrust of genetically modified anything. I don’t like anything that looks like humans playing God.)

How To Find Seeds that are not Genetically Modified

This can actually be a little tricky in the United States since genetically modified foods and seeds are not labeled. There are two types of seeds to look for that typically mean they are not genetically modified: open pollinating or heirloom varieties. You can read the seed package to ensure that they say one of those things.

Open pollinating seeds breed just like the parent plants breed. This means that you can save your seeds and continue planting them year after year. Many heirloom seeds are at least 100 years old and all are open pollinating as well. These seeds have been saved year to year, and are the same seeds that our grandparents would have planted.

UPDATE: Please see the comments for an important note from Jami at An Oregon Cottage about hybrid seeds vs. GMOs. A vital distinction!!!

Where To Buy Seeds

We buy from Seed Savers Exchange or Baker Creek because all of their seeds are open pollinated. Also, there are some seeds that are very difficult to find that are not genetically modified such as beets, however, Baker Creek actually tests their seeds before selling them to make sure they have not cross-pollinated. These seeds can be more expensive than buying seeds at local stores that are genetically modified, however, they are much better for you. In addition, many of these seeds will be a one time purchase. Once you have purchased the seeds, you just save your seeds for the next year and reuse them.

There are also some seeds that we purchase locally from a local farmer store. They are able to tell us whether or not their seeds are genetically modified.

If you’ve missed the rest of the organic gardening series from Rene of Budget Saving Mom, click here to catch up.  Next up is natural pest control.

Thank you, Rene, for such great information!  I asked a farmer selling eggs at the Farmer’s Market what their chickens ate last week, and when they told me their corn was open pollinated, I actually knew what it meant!

I’ve been gardening just a smidge, too.  Check out my other post today to see what 8 things I put in my tomato planting hole (other than the tomato plant)!

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Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to balancing God’s gifts of time, health, earth and money.  If you feel called to such a mission, read more at Mission, Method, and Mary and Martha Moments.

Photo from Rastoney.

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15 Comments so far ↓

  • Christy

    In my limited research of GMO’s I’ve read that most produce that is sold in grocery stores is NOT GMO. Corn and soy are the main culprits. Are you saying that most of the seeds that are sold in conventional places are GMO? Wouldn’t that mean that most produce would be too? I’m just a little confused. Thanks!
    .-= Christy´s last blog ..Fabulous book =-.

    Katie Reply:

    Christy,
    Sounds like Jami in the next comment answered your concerns pretty thoroughly, and I appreciate that! :) Katie

    Katie Reply:

    Christy,
    You are right that corn and soy are mostly always GMO, and for other vegs and fruit it’s hard to tell. I think Rene’s point is that if you buy basic seeds, you don’t know if they’re genetically modified or not. There are lists (Google it) of produce that is more likely to be GMO than not (I’m guessing tomatoes are on there, but not sure). But sometimes you just have to buy the fruits and veggies, enjoy them and not worry, right? :) Katie

  • Debbie R

    I have read A LOT on the subject of GMO’s. They are in 80% of the food you buy in the grocery store with many hidden names for BT corn and soy. Papayas from Hawaii and some zucchini also are genetically modified. Beet sugar was just approved by the FDA. (Will be used as a substitute for corn syrup) All of the seeds are owned by the Monsanto company that also makes Round-up. Hence, their BT-corn, aka “Round-up ready” corn was made to withstand heavy doses of Round-up. This corn is also open-pollinated and can very easily cross-pollinate with other corn varieties. The only way to know for sure is to have the seeds tested.

    Through the numerous publications I have read over the past 3 months, I have been astonished to see how deep and wide this problem is. It is deep within our government and covered-up by many. If you are serious about eating healthy, I would recommend everyone do some research and follow the money trail. I don’t know if it’s appropriate here to mention books or articles, but I’d be happy to give anyone who is interested info on where to get more information.

  • Primal Toad

    Thanks for this post! I plan on building a very large garden for next year so I will have to keep this thought in the back of my head.

    My mother just planted a tomato plant… She bought it from a local farmer and said the soil is good quality and expensive… let’s hope so!
    .-= Primal Toad´s last blog ..Primal Fitness: Simple Fit Workout Day 2 =-.

  • Jami @ An Oregon Cottage

    I’m sorry Katie (and Rene), but it just burns me up when this subject is discussed with no differentiation made between hybrids and GMOs. I think this is why the first commenter is so confused.

    A hybrid is NOT a GMO seed.
    Hybridization is just plants cross- pollenating with other like plants and can and does happen in nature all the time. A hundred years ago, men began to do it on purpose to get different fruits and veggies and as a result we have delicious sweet corn instead of just field corn. No, you cannot save them from year to year, but I grow both heirlooms and hybrids in my garden to get the best and most prolific produce.

    Genetically modified seeds have had OTHER ORGANISMS inserted in their genes in order to produce a very different thing- usually a pesticide that will make the plant better able to withstand lots of pesticides. And we most definitely should try to stay away from purchasing items that grow from these seeds (the biggest are corn, soy, and cottonseed), if for no other reason than to tell the producers we don’t like the notion of GMOs.

    Most of the seeds sold in the stores are NOT these (which are patented by Monsanto), but hybrids as well as heirlooms. There are many reasons to buy from reputable seed companies (treated seed, etc), but not just to avoid hybrids because you think they are the same as GMOs. Please, please make sure your readers know this difference.

    Here is a very brief overview from organic gardening magazine to explain more:
    http://www.organicgardening.com/feature/0,7518,s1-2-10-1325,00.html

    Thanks!

    Katie Reply:

    Jami,
    Thank YOU! You know I like to be informed, and this is valuable information. So probably the cucumber seeds I bought at the store, then, aren’t GMO, just the “big guns” or super crops? That’s a relief! :) Katie

    Katie Reply:

    Jami,
    Thank you so much – I updated the post and credited you! :) Katie

  • Rosie

    There is a move to allow GMO Alfalfa to be grown in USA, Many animals are fed an this crop. Soon there will be no choice to avoid GMOs. There is a short movie on the effects of GMO here:
    http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_20908.cfm
    .-= Rosie´s last blog ..Please take action. This is urgent. Stop GE Alfalfa =-.

  • Sourdough Sue

    80% of the field corn (not sweet corn) and 90% of the soybeans grown in this country are GMO sold by Monsanto and a couple other lg. corps. When people rave about soy being so good for you, I can’t agree until the soy is Organic (which I believe cannot contain GMO to be certified at this point) Recently there was an article in the Wall Street Journal providing results of GMO testing done in France (I think it was France!) They tested GMO corn and soy on mice. This type of testing has not been done in the US because the FDA and USDA accept and approve these products with short term mega dose testing. These European researchers tested mice long term. The first generation showed little ill affects, perhaps some constipation. No ill affects noticed in the 2nd generation. The third generation were mostly STERILE! If you have the chance watch Food, Inc. or Fresh The Movie for very informative documentaries. They each have websites with info. Hybrids are not the same thing. The reason most people are against hybrids is that you cannot save seed and expect the same characteristics from year to year. GMO MAY harm your health. These companies have very heavy-handed tactics to force their products on the public. Considering that most processed products contain field corn or soy , the chances of eating GMO items are virtually guaranteed. I do buy hybrids occassionally as a luxury to get certain traits, knowing that they are more expensive and I cannot save the seed. I eat NO GMO (non-organice soy, cornstarch, HFCS, MSG, the list is endless of the chemicals made from corn.) Organic corn flour or soy and make your own is the safest!

  • Heather

    Another good source for non-GMO seeds is Fedco Seeds http://www.fedcoseeds.com I’m not affiliated, but I’ve been happily buying my seeds from them since the early ’90′s. They sell a huge variety of different stuff, no GMO’s , lots of heirlooms, and I’ve always been impressed with both price and quality. When I ordered apple trees from them, they did not arrive as dead looking sticks like trees I’ve ordered other places. They shipped from Maine to Missouri, and arrived happy and with a few blossoms!
    Caveat: their catalog, though very well-written, is newsprint & no photos, so look at someone else’s pretty photos if you need to see.

  • Rosie

    Hi Katie, I usually have that outlook, not to worry & meditate & hope for the best but this particular issue I think is one of the few that is worth worrying about. Research shows it takes 3 generations for the effects of GMO food to be seen. Results like sterility & having hair grow inside the mouth. Thinking of acting now as stewards of the planet for our childrens’ children, I think we do need to worry about this issue just a little bit.
    Kind regards.
    .-= Rosie´s last blog ..Please take action. This is urgent. Stop GE Alfalfa =-.

  • Kathy

    Hi Katie, I know I’m a little late to the discussion but I’m hoping you could answer a few questions for me? When we buy conventional produce at the supermarket is there a way to tell whether it is just conventional or GMO by the # codes? Is it safe to say that all organic produce are not GMO? Can hybrid ever be mixed with GMO like one or two GMOs come together to make a hybrid? This GMO stuff really scares the crap out of me!! Thanks!

    Katie Reply:

    Kathy,
    Any organic produce has a “9″ at the beginning and is 5 digits long instead of 4. GMOs are, for now, banned in organic produce, so if you want zero GMOs, organic produce is the way to go. Some brands of food, like Meijer naturals, labels “NO GMO”, so I like to buy things like tomato sauce from them when I run out of home canned. Any GMO would not be able to be organic, but I don’t really know about the mixing – if it’s possible. I’m just sure it would have still be labeled “GM”. Good luck! :) Katie

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I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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