EARLY GIRL TOMATOES are a genetically modified organism

Is there a difference between GE & GMO?

Leslie Cox takes a look at what is new in the world of seeds, namely, in the genetic engineering sector

Enter the rainy season and I turn to my inside chores…removing dried seeds from their seed pods.

And catching up on my reading … checking up on what is new in the world of seeds. Namely, in the genetic engineering sector.

I stumbled onto an article about the difference between the GE and GMO designation. This author stated there is a definite difference between the two terms … and she is right to a point.

Technically, GMO … genetically modified organism … refers to any plant that has been hybridized through pollen transference … by humans, bees or any other natural process. So any cultivar such as ‘Early Girl’ tomato and Hosta ‘June’ are, in fact, GMOs.

‘Early Girl’ has been purposely bred by hand pollination to produce an early-ripening tomato. ‘June’ arrived on the gardening scene as a naturally-occurring sport of another hosta … ‘Halcyon’.

The GMO designation also holds true for those varieties that have been crossed within their own family … broccoli with kale, apricot with plum, plum with cherry. These have all been done by humans using conventional pollen-transfer methods. Sounds a bit weird perhaps, but a perfectly plausible possibility in nature.

I do not think the pluerry … the plum/cherry cross … has been released to the market just yet. But the others are available.

In fact, cherry-plum hybrids have been around since the late 19th century. I found one reference listing over 20 different cultivars.

As for the apricot-plum hybrids … they are called Pluots if the plant has predominantly plum parentage or Apriums if the parentage leans to the apricot side. Both are registered trademark names.

Then there is broccolini … also known by several other names such as Asparation, brocoletti and Tenderstem. (The first and last are both trade registered names.) This is a natural cross between broccoli and kai-lan, a Chinese broccoli.

This type of cross is not so unusual in the brassica family. Cabbage, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are famous for crossing their pollen grains with one another … greatly helped by bees. But such crosses are a GMO nonetheless.

So … if such naturally occurring crosses are scientifically a genetically modified organism, how did GMO get such a bad rap?

Thank the FDA and USDA. According to both of these institutions who make the “food rules,” GMO refers to any organism that has been modified through any form … natural or human assisted pollination…or through genetic manipulation in a laboratory.

Hence, confusion reigns. Some “weird” fruit and vegetable crossings which are perfectly legit according to Mother Nature are now lumped in with the “frankenfoods.”

Yeah, frankenfoods. GE … genetic engineering.

This process uses biotechnology to single out a desirable molecule from one organism, copy it and insert it into the hereditary sequence of another … unrelated … organism that they are trying to “improve.”

Such as the insertion of a human liver gene into rice. What?!

True. The plan is to take the artificial proteins from this Frankenrice as it is being called, and use it to develop a faster acting anti-diarrhea drug for children.

From all sources, this new rice is being grown on 12,950 hectares (3,200 acres) in Kansas. Since 2006 apparently. The company, Ventria Bioscience, has plans to add this new pharmaceutical drug to foods like yogurt and nutrition bars.

Scary reading. Right in line with Halloween.

And it is scary stuff … if you are wanting to keep GE foods off your plate. But the bottom line is: we should definitely be wary of the GMO designation.

Check the vegetable or fruit out before you put them in your shopping cart. They may well be legit … or not.

I will follow up periodically with more information on my blog.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca and her column appears every second Friday in the Record.

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