How GMO Literate Are You?

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA

It’s that time of year again when SPIN farmers cuddle up to the fires or their computers to browse seed catalogs. It’s also the time social media fire off the question “How do you know if you are buying GMO seeds?”

A better question might be, “How GMO literate are you?” Most new farmers, consumers, and gardeners have a lot of misconceptions about GMO seed, some of it created by seed companies, and we’re not talking Monsanto. Here are two facts for SPIN farmers to consider that can take some of the angst out of their seed buying this year.

First, there are very few SPIN crops that have a GMO version. According to a 2012 report on NPR, these are the crops that are currently GMO:

1. Alfalfa (for animal feed)
2. Corn
3. Canola (a source for oil)
4. Cotton (for oil)
5. Soybeans
6. Papaya
7. Squash
8. Sugar beets (which aren’t eaten directly, but refined into sugar).

GMO versions of tomatoes, potatoes, and rice have been created and approved by government regulators,  but they aren’t commercially available. A SPIN farmer would have to work really hard to get their hands on GMO seed.

Second, organic seed proponents proclaim organic seed as GMO-free, which may imply that non-organic seed is GMO. But non-organic seed is GMO-free also.

There are good reasons to know the source of your seed – we’ve been saying for a while that farmers should have as close a relationship with their seed suppliers as their chefs. And there are good reasons to be aware of the controversy over genetically modified organisms. But when it comes to GMO’s, let’s learn our P’s and Q’s.

SF photo Brenda fireside catalogs


Here’s the seed ordering station for SPIN farmer Brenda Sullivan of Thompson Street Farm in Glastonbury CT.