Heirloom Seeds vs. Hybrid or GMO

What’s the difference between heirloom and hybrid seeds? What about GMO seeds? Why would I plant one instead of the other?

Heirloom seeds have been used for centuries. Saving seeds each year was how farmers grew crops every year. These seeds have been handed down for generations, also known as heritage or antique varieties. These seeds are true to the parent when planted. The seed will be just like the parent that the seed came from.

Why grow heirloom? The flavor of heirloom beat other seeds, and their colors are very diverse. Geographical regions have heirloom seeds that grow in the local climate. These seeds can be saved and are the seeds found in seed banks. These seeds are also referred to as open pollinating seeds, since they pollinate out in the open, in nature. If you think of computers, it’s like open software with no patents and restrictions for sharing with others.The history of heirloom seeds are available to give you ideas of where the seed was initially grown. Ninety-five percent of heirloom seeds will grow anywhere unless you are in extreme zones.

Hybrid seeds have been cross bred to select for specific traits and do not breed true to the parent. You can’t save seeds for this reason, you may end up with a plant that isn’t anything like the parent. The hybrid seeds are bred for pest resistance, long shelf life, ability to withstand harvesting and shipping of large scale agricultural practices. These chosen traits may be at the detriment of flavor, colors and/or nutrition. Hybrid seeds are patented and cannot be shared or saved.

GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) seeds won’t be available in your garden center. These seeds are genetically engineered in a laboratory and cross genetics from species that would never happen in nature and these seeds are patented. Two main GMO crops are glyphosate resistant crops and the other type is known as BT (Bacillus thuringiensis). By patenting and creating seeds using genetic engineering a few companies control the seed supply.

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