Have faith in a seed

Published 11:20 am Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders. — Henry David Thoreau

Lately I have been preoccupied with thoughts of seeds. I have ordered and purchased with much deliberation vegetable and herb garden seeds for the coming season. My temporary greenhouse has been assembled and I’m ready to plant.

With all the choices that we now have in the seed market, I have noticed some confusion and uncertainty amongst consumers. I would like to talk about the meanings of some of the most common definitions being used and type of seed.

Let’s start with “Open Pollinated” seed. These seeds are pollinated by nature with no help from the hand of man. If you save seed from an open pollinated plant and plant it, it will produce a plant that will have the same traits as the parent plant, unless the plant cross pollinates with another plant of the same family. An example would be when two different types of tomato are planted too close and cross pollinate by proximity.

“Hybrid” seed is the result of man purposefully cross pollinating two plants in order to produce a seed with specific desirable traits from both parent plants. Some common traits plant breeders are looking for when they do this are disease resistance, uniformity, flavor and color. A hybrid plant’s seeds can be saved and planted but they will not grow true to type and they may or may not lack the traits of the parent plants.

“Heirloom” seeds are open-pollinated and have been passed down for many generations. The plants grown from heirloom seeds grow true to type and have the same traits as the parents.

“Certified Organic” seeds and plants, by law, can only be labeled as such by growers who are in compliance with all the rules and regulations specified by the USDA’s National Certified Organics Program. U.S. regulations strictly prohibit the use of sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering. Certified Organic operations are managed according to approved and regularly inspected plans by accredited certifiers annually.

“GMO” seeds are Genetically Modified Organisms. Personally, I don’t care for the term GMO; I feel that it is too vague of a description. A plant that is cross pollinated by nature may produce a seed that will not grow true to both of the original plant’s parents. You could say that this seed/organism has been genetically modified by nature. Hence creating confusion.

“GE” seed, or more specifically Genetically Engineered seed, is the result of the hand of man incorporating foreign genes directly into organisms that are sexually incompatible using recombinant DNA techniques. These foreign genes can come from bacteria, insects, animals and even humans … scary stuff!

Today’s gardener should educate themselves to ensure the product they intend to purchase, really is what they believe it to be. I grow organically by choice and do not plant anything Genetically Engineered. I do, on occasion, plant hybrids, and my preferred seed of choice are the Heirloom, Untreated, Non-Hybrid, Non-GMO seed.

Dawn Conrad is a columnist for The K-V Dispatch. Her email address is conrad.gardenmuse@gmail.com.