From the advent of agriculture, farmers propagated crops using open pollination. More recently, hybridization and genetic
modification have been introduced.
is the most basic propagation method: simply letting plants go to seed and
saving those seeds to replant the next season. All heirloom crops were developed this way. Occasionally mutations would occur
naturally, and if they produced a desirable trait—bigger fruits, hardier plants, earlier ripening—farmers kept those seeds
and new varieties were developed (aka natural selection).
began in the 1920s. Two plant varieties (or two completely separate plants, such as broccoli and gai lan, shown left) are
crossbred and their offspring carry the best traits of both parents. But in the following season, saved seeds from hybrid
plants don’t come back “true”—the plants produce a hodgepodge of traits. The only way to grow plants identical to the
original hybrids is to cross the same parent plants again. Thus, customers have to purchase seeds every year, which
commercial seed companies love.
is a process where scientists remove specific genes from any species—plant, animal, insect, bacterium—and
transfer them into any other, something nature could never do. A bacterial gene that naturally produces an insecticide, for
instance, can be inserted into corn, and the corn will produce the same insecticide. GMO, GE, GM, transgenic and genetic
modification all mean the same thing.
Read More: GMOs: Good Seed, Bad Seed
| Where the GMOs Are