Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Word on Genetically Engineered Seeds (We don't carry them)

Sow these peas directly into your garden soil, and fear not - they haven't been genetically altered.

The film The Future of Food, which I saw at the Woodstock Film Festival in 2004, was the first time I had even heard of genetically engineered food. Only after that did I read The Botany of Desire by the now well-known Michael Pollan. The book has now been turned into a film, and since then corporate farms and the dangers of monoculture in our food sources have gained a fair amount of attention.

At the center of the debate is the leader of GE (genetic engineering) and the company best known for it's weed killer Roundup and it's Roundup resistant strains of corn, soybeans and other crops, Monsanto. Sometimes portrayed as a corrupt corporate villain and other times as a technological savior helping farmers and fighting hunger - we'll let you make up your own mind. We're just providing a little information about seed companies owned by or independent of Monsanto:

Monsanto Purchases World’s Largest Vegetable Seed Company(from an artcle dated Jan. 24, 2005)

"Monsanto Company to Acquire Seminis, Inc., a Leading Vegetable and Fruit Seed Company.

The news of Monsanto’s agreement to purchase Seminis has received little attention from the media other than the financial pages and a few seed industry and anti-globalization web sites. But then again, why should it? How many consumers – of food or seed – have even heard of Seminis? And yet, as Seminis spinmeister Gary Koppenjan said, “If you've had a salad, you've had a Seminis product."

It is estimated that Seminis controls 40 percent of the U.S. vegetable seed market and 20 percent of the world market—supplying the genetics for 55 percent of the lettuce on U.S. supermarket shelves, 75 percent of the tomatoes, and 85 percent of the peppers, with strong holdings in beans, cucumbers, squash, melons, broccoli, cabbage, spinach and peas. The company’s biggest revenue source comes from tomato and peppers seeds, followed by cucumbers and beans."

"This is not the first time Seminis and Monsanto have done business. In 1997, Monsanto began to insert its Roundup resistant gene into one of Seminis’ lettuces, with an agreement to split the premium fifty-fifty. A 1999 Wall Street Journal article also noted that Seminis had received U.S. regulatory approval for selling disease-resistant genetically engineered squash and tomatoes with longer shelf lives and that the firm was working on using biotechnology to create sweeter peas and worm-proof cucumbers."

People have many different views on what genetically engineered food means for our health and environment. But if you do have concerns, you have no way of knowing whats been done to the DNA of the squash at the grocery store. Growers are not required to mark their produce "genetically modified."

Many people choose to grow their own veggies when they can, but if Monsanto also owns the majority of seed companies, what are your options?

Here is list of seed companies still independent from Monsanto. (Note that Botanical Interest and Renee's Seeds are on the list. Those are the seed brands we carry at Victoria Gardens.)

And here is a list of seed companies owned by Monsanto. Most of these companies, like Burpee are carried by the big box stores, and some are even labeled "organic." (Just because they are owned by Monsanto does not mean they are genetically modified, but as a consumer you'll never know, because they don't have to tell you.)

Direct sow these other non-GE cool weather crops directly into your garden:

We also carry seeds from The Hudson Valley Seed Library, a collection of local heirloom seeds.

1 comment:

Kristin said...


I work with Burpee, and wanted to respond to your post. Please be advised that Burpee is NOT owned by Monsanto. Burpee is privately owned by George Ball. For more information, please see the formal statement from Burpee below.

Burpee is the nation's leading purveyor of both heirloom and hybrid vegetable seeds and mail order transplants.

Burpee was founded in 1876 by seed pioneer W. Atlee Burpee. Today, the company remains privately owned by George Ball, a third generation seedsman, who serves as Chairman and CEO of W. Atlee Burpee & Co. and is past president of The American Horticultural Society. For more information, please visit our company history page here.