I recently saw a movie called "Food, Inc" that brought to my attention the oddest thing: SEEDS. ( I am also reading a fabulous book right now called "Animal, Vegetable, MIracle" by Barbara Kingsolver that echoed many of the movies points) I can honestly say that I have never given 2 thoughts to the seeds that make up our food.
So I did a little research and here is what I've learned.
There are basically 3 types of seeds: HEIRLOOM, HYBRID, and GENETICALLY MODIFIED.
HEIRLOOM seeds are generally chosen for the taste of the vegetables they produce. These are the seeds that have been saved and passed down from generation to generation, farmer to farmer. These seeds are always open-pollinated (unlike hybrid) which means that if the seeds are saved properly, they will produce the same crop year after year. These use the plants natural sex organs (yes, plants have sex organs) to reproduce each year.
HYBRID seeds (which are slowly dominating the seed catalogs and crops) have been bred to accentuate the positive characteristics of their species. They are the one time product of crosses between different varieties of the same species (which means that same sex organs). Often these are bred for the uniformity, disease resistance, and greater productivity. For example, cross breeding tall corn with early corn. The down-side is that these seeds need to be purchase each yea. Because of their unnatural parentage, these "offspring" of these seeds will be unpredictable. In essence the superior quality of these seeds is first generation only!
GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMO's) or GENETICALLY ENGINEERED is a relatively new process to the food industry that involves gene manipulation within a laboratory. The engineer is not limited to the natural sex species of plants, but can use chromosome splicing to combine the traits of species in no way related. For example, using animal or bacterial genes and splicing them into plants.
So what are the benefits? Well, the main reason is to make plants either herbicide or plant resistant. This means that entire crops can be sprayed with something like Round-Up and they plants will not be affected. Unfortunately, this may possibly increase the amount of pesticides already being used. The GMO also allows the engineer to produce whatever seed they choose. Currently, there are genetically modified seeds produced to include a "terminator gene" that causes the crop to commit genetic suicide after one generation. This forces the farmer to buy the expensive, patented seeds year after year.
Which brings up another interesting point. These seeds are patented. Monsanto, which is one of 6 MEGA companies that own 98 percent of the worlds seed sales, budgets $10 million a year to investigate and prosecute any farmer that might be found in possession of its seeds. That seems fair, you might think. If they invented the technology, they should have rights to it. Right? Well, not so fast. The problem with genetically modified seeds is that they are proving to be uncontainable. Seeds naturally cross-pollinate with the use of birds, bees and even wind. This is true of these seeds also. So a neighboring farm, but unknowingly get some of these GMOs pollinated within their own crops. The problem with this is that these farmers are being sued for exorbitant amount when companies like Mosanto find even so much as a gene that came from their patented seeds. Other organic farmers are up in arms over the fact that they might lose their "organic" labeling (not to mention get sued) because of the natural cross-pollinating.
It seems that there are people on both side FIERCEY fighting for or against the genetically modified process. I am not nearly educated enough to be able to form an adequate position. But what I do feel strongly about is KNOWING what I am EATING. Three quarters of the entire world's food comes from just 8 species and these are quickly narrowing to genetically modified corn, soy and canola. You would be dumbfounded if you knew how many supermarket products us some form of corn (ever heard of high fructose corn syrup - it's in everything). We have labeling laws in this country and for some reason these ubiquitous 6 companies seem exempt from these laws. There are no current laws requiring our food to be labeled as GENETICALLY MODIFIED. Is it possible that our government is somehow in bed with these companies? I found it quite interesting when Veteran Mommy informed me that a senior lobbyist for Monsanto was just appointed to a senior level position in the FDA. (Yes, our government profits anytime we can increase the quantities of grown commodities).
Knowledge is power. The more educated we are as consumers the better off we will be as a whole. Don't believe everything you read, but don't ever stop reading!!!!