|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.
4 thoughts on “The Seed Debate”
I completely agree with you. I grow heirloom tomatoes each year and as many other heirloom seeds as I have space for. I remember when we first came to southern california from northern wisconsin, the land was covered with acres of avocados, citrus, and all sorts of vegetables, poultry, turkey and cattle farms. Sadly, huge developers arrived and bought up so much of the land around here and have put in huge housing developements where the grows and farms once were. No wonder so much of our produce now comes from Mexico. I do my best in my little space to grow what I can.
I'm an heirloomer, too. For one thing, I like to be able to save my seeds from one season to the next. For another, the variety is so vast. When I get the Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek catalogs, it is like walking into a candy store 🙂
Woot! great post!
I prefer OP and heirlooms… but I don't mind *certain* hybrids. By that I mean my hang up is entirely with GMO's. GMO genetics are dominant and get hidden in under the hybrid labeling.
Curiosity however, has always gotten the better of me. After watching a bumblebee go from Queen Anne to Black Krim.. well… I am hoping to find out what the fruits of that pollen trollop's labors creates. (But still keeping the main strains going.)
Fedco? I don't think of them as making a lot of money from hybrids. It is a cooperative not a for profit company. Yes it sells hybrids. But it doesn't sell seeds from Monsanto (at least not any longer as their members voted that they didn't want their seed coming from them) or genetically engineered seed. And it labels the seed to where it came from. So if you only want seed from a small family farm, you can do that.
But then again I don't find hybrid seeds evil either. I find lack of genetic diversity evil. Which is different. I like the idea of smaller regional seed companies better than large national seed companies. I also don't think capitalism and crop seeds as things that mix well. Profit shouldn't be the driving force in seed for our food. It is too important for greed to get in the way and sadly it has.
That being said I agree with all your reasons for growing heirlooms. I grow a lot of them, but not all my seed is heirloom or even open pollinated, though most is.
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