The Seed Debate

Calypso beans, an heirloom seed

My friend, Yolanda, sent me this article from the NY Times renewing that old debate about heirloom vs. hybrid seeds. So I figured I’d give my opinion on it here. Remember it’s only my personal feelings about the debate. No one is wrong, we all have very good reasons for choosing what we do.

The pro-hybrid side in the article seems to be mostly supported by companies that make a lot of  money from proprietary hybrid seeds – Burpee, Johnny’s, Fedco. I choose not to buy from Burpee and Johnny’s actually. They purchase seed from Seminis, a subsidiary of Monsanto, which is a whole different can of worms.

I only grow heirlooms and open pollinated varieties here. I have several reasons for doing so.
1. Preserving biodiversity in our food. If a disease or pest comes through there will be plants that survive and you can save the seed from those for the following year. Each year you replant you can improve that variety by choosing seed from the plants that thrive the best, thus creating plants that are perfectly suited for your environment. You can’t save seed from hybrids.
2. Preserving our heritage. So many of the varieties we once had have been lost to time and profit.
3. Being more self sufficient. You can’t be self sufficient if you have to rely on a large seed company to supply your seeds. Saving seed is the best way to stay independent.
4. The interesting varieties. Heirlooms offer so many cool varieties that you just don’t see with hybrids. Hybrids seem to be mostly developed for big ag, where the money really is, so they go for qualities that will increase profits (uniform sizes and shapes to aid in packing, easier to ship, longer shelf life, etc) and odd shapes and colors are not part of that.
So that’s my take on the heirloom vs. hybrid debate. I know people prefer hybrids but these are my reasons for not using them.