Keeping Genetically Modified Crops Out of Your Garden and Off Your Table

The winter months can be long and hard for some to get through.  However, starting around January,
the seed catalogs, with their beautiful colored photos of the many different varieties of vegetables, berries and flowers, start arriving in the mail and all seem to offer a glimpse of hope that spring is right around the corner.

But do you ever stop to wonder, through the plethora of seed catalogs, where do all of those seeds come from?  I mean, they have to come from some place.  They can't just multiply on their own. And, if you are like me, you are (or should be) concerned about the ever increasing foods that either are GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) or contain GMO ingredients.

So What is the Big Deal About GMOs?

GMOs are just that - they are genetically modified - meaning that the organism (in this case, a seed) was once in its true form, the way it was created to be (with the exception of modifications done through cross pollination, etc.).  When it was genetically modified, its DNA has been changed in way that now makes it immune to certain diseases, fungus and insects.  

Now all of this may seem harmless, and, in fact, may seem like a good thing especially in terms of those who garden as a source of food for their family, or farmers who depend on having an abundance of crops as their primary source of income.  But in reality, when you change the DNA makeup of something, say for example, corn, which is one of the top GMO products to date (in fact, it is said that at least 95% of the world's corn industry are GMOs), you also potentially change the way our bodies digest and react this "new" product.

Can GMOs Cause Health Problems?

In the past 20 or so years, we have seen an increase in allergies (both food and environmental), digestive issues are on the rise, along with an increase in other health ailments. In fact, according to the Institute for Responsible Technology:  

The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses 
jumped from 7% to 13% in just 9 years; food allergies skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others are on the rise

Now you may be thinking that 7% to 13% may not seem like a huge jump compared to the amount of crops the average farmer using GMOs are producing, but when you are one of those 13% who have a chronic illness, food allergy or even digestive problems, such as I do, you start to take a look at the whole picture - including where you food comes from.

Are GMOs Bad For the Environment?

In a nutshell - YES.  Those GMO seeds are typically treated with herbicides, including brand names such as Roundup, and pesticides to keep weeds and insects at bay.  So how is this a bad thing?  Well, let's take a look at seeds that are treated with Roundup.  What happens to the Roundup when the seed is planted - it has now contaminated the soil - and once the rain (or irrigation is started), where does the weed killer go - into the ground, which has the potential of eventually ending up in our water system.  Just think of the many different animals and people that depend on their local water system for water.  That water came from somewhere, and if you live near a farm that uses GMO seeds, chances are there may be harmful chemicals in the water that you may not even know about.

How to Stay Away from GMOs

One of the easiest ways to stay away from GMO foods is to purchase only products that are clearly marked with the Non-GMO Project seal.

Another way to keep GMOs out of your kitchen is to grow produce in your own garden.  There are many different ways this can be done - either in containers, a small plot or acres of land.

When planting your own garden, you do need to keep in mind that the best seeds are those that are both organic and heirloom.  Buy why?  And is there a difference between organic and heirloom seeds? According to Organic Gardening:

Organic refers to a specific way plants and seeds are grown, while heirloom describes a plant's heritage. 

So when you buy seeds that are both organic and heirloom,  you can rest assured that you are getting seeds that are not covered in pesticides or herbicides and the seed has not been genetically modified.

However, there are very few places to buy seeds that are both organic and heirloom and you have to do your research as some places offer organic or heirloom, but not both.  Below are my top four picks for seed companies that offer both organic heirloom seeds for you to choose from.

Top 4 Places for Organic Heirloom Seeds

1.  Seed Savers Exchange

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization who pride themselves on trying to save the world's seed supply.  Their seeds are guaranteed to not have any type of pesticide coating that is often used to prevent fungus from forming.  One of the most interesting concepts from Seed Savers Exchange is the opportunity for people to share their seeds with the Seed Savers Exchange so that they can be distributed to those that purchase seeds from the company.  

Their catalog is a great resource and has a lot of various seeds to choose from.  They also offer organic heirloom potato seeds, which, as any gardener may have encountered, is hard to come by and tend to sell out fast.

2.  Seeds of Change 

Seeds of Change is a great resource for not only organic heirloom seeds, but they also offer live plants and gardening tools, which, I must say, I always find something to add to my wish list.  Their website also has a great library of tips for beginning gardeners, how to grow certain crops and even the best ways to store your crops after harvesting.

3.  Baker Creek

Baker Creek is by far my favorite catalog to get every winter.  The pictures of the different veggies, vine fruits and flowers are gorgeous.  I have actually ordered from Baker Creek in the past and have had great success with their seeds in my garden.  Baker Creek also has a festival during the month of May where well known gardeners (well well known in terms of those gardeners who are on the forefront of getting rid of GMO seeds and saving seeds from all over the world from becoming extent).

4.  Burpee

Burpee seeds have been around for as long as I can remember gardening when I was little.  Although they tend to mainly have non-heirloom seeds (which may or may not be GMO seeds too) and plants, they are expanding their section of heirlooms yearly.  Burpee is also a brand that I have seen in some of the bigger gardening and home goods stores so you may be able to find heirloom seeds there.

Where to Go From Here?

Hopefully I have provided you with a little bit of knowledge of GMOs, taking control of the type of foods you eat and maybe even some inspiration on starting your own garden.  I urge you to make your own decision and do your own research on GMOs and where you food comes from.

I invite you to join me over the next few weeks as I will show you how I get ready for my own garden to be planted, what I plan on growing and hopefully in the end, having a successful gardening year. If you garden, or plan on starting one this year, what will you be planting?



Galloway, Willi E. "Organic Vocabulary." Organic Gardening, n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

"Institute for Responsible Technology." - 10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs. Institute for Responsible Technology, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.

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