So, you’re looking to buy seed for the first time, or maybe you’ve bought seed before and are looking at other options as far as seed is concerned. For most gardeners, it’s as easy as walking into the home and garden store, finding something that has a picture of something you would like to grow in your garden, and you buy it. It’s a bit o a no-brainer. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but there might be a point where you would like to know a little more about the seed in which you are spending your money on and eventually feeding your family with.
There are a lot of different seeds. You have the genetically modified seed, which has been in the news as much as gun control over the past few years, you have your hybrid, you have treated, non-treated, and organic. I know there are others, but these are the labels I feel are most important to talk about with the urban farmer or the gardener.
There are a lot of people who seem to get the terms hybrid and GMO confused. I believe that this is a huge reason as to why prop 37 failed in California. There was a simple lack of education and deceptions by the corporations who create and sell GMO products. Well, the answer is simple. Hybrid does not mean GMO. An F1 hybrid, which you’ll see in all the seed catalogs simply means that the seed or plant was created using 2 closely related but distinctly different types. The best example in the animal kingdom is the mule. A GMO is completely different. A GMO is a seed or an animal in which is bred from outside the species. Many GMO seeds are bred with the DNA of a bacteria, a virus, animal, or another plant. Though there is said to be a good amount of data proving the safety of the genetically modified varieties, there is little regulation on the industry and far less research than one would think. In a nutshell, an F1 hybrid does not mean it’s GMO, more often than not, it’s not.
Seed treatment is just about as controversial as GMO. Most treatment is simply a bath in a chemical or fungicide, while some are treated in warm water. A chemical dip that allows the seed to germinate easier and without the disruption of insects or fungi usually is off the seed within 1-4 weeks of germination. There are a lot of concerns by people who are looking for a more organic or natural. One seed treatment, Imidacloprid, has been banned in France as many believe that it is the main cause for colony collapse, which has killed billions of bees and has disrupted pollination and honey production around the world.
There are mixed ideas about whether treated seeds are good or not. Most gardeners and farmers use them without any issues, but they cannot be nor will not be used by organic or sustainable farmers or gardeners. There is often a lack of evidence that proves the treatment safe, and many also don’t want the residue from the chemicals in their soil. The use of a treated seed can cause an organic farm to lose their certifications.
Organic is simply a seed that was created organically. It does not need to be an heirloom, as there are many F1 hybrids that are certified organic, but the seed has hot been genetically modified nor treated and has a USDA Organic certified organic line. Everything about the organic seed has been carefully documented. According t0 he USDA, this is the epitome of what is natural.
Then, there is the untreated seed. This is not organic. It may have had treated seed within its lineage, which keeps it from ever becoming certified organic, but since the seed, itself has not been treated, nor is genetically modified, it can be used by organic farmers if and only if there is so organic seeds of the particular variety available. If the farmer is certified, it’s best to have it documented that there is no organic available.
Okay, I know I left out a lot, but this is a subject in which an entire book could be easily written.
In case anyone is wondering, Michelle and I use only Organic and untreated seed. We prefer organic, but sometimes we have to make do.