A lot of organic gardening tips tell you that the path to eating GMO free fruits and vegetables is to grow heirloom varieties. There is more to it than that. Just because a seed catalog lists a plant or seed selection as ‘heirloom’ does not necessarily mean it is so. You must seek out not so much well known long time garden favorites by name, but by how the seed you will be buying was produced. Once upon a time this was not a problem, but in the past 20 years of so the world of backyard gardening has changed just about as much as commercial agriculture. This effects your indoor food garden too, because you will use the same seed source to get growing as anyone else interested in home grown garden fresh food.
Along with creating patented seeds you’ve been hearing so much about in the news with GMOs and genetically engineered crops, Monsanto also owns forty percent of the garden seed companies in the United States. Their investment in the home gardening industry includes purchasing the names of long standing garden favorites once referred to broadly as heirloom varieties. Only a partner of Monsanto could sell such seed under it’s original, and perhaps century old name. While no one can claim ownership of the actual variety, their identities are now trademarks controlled by the monster chemical company.
Why is this important?
Probably one of the most well known and long standing preferred summer tomato varieties is Beefmaster. This is a hybrid, which means it is not open pollinated but created by crossing two tomato varieties (or more) to come up with true Beefmaster seed. Somewhere along the way, Monsanto has acquired the original seed house that created or marketed this seed, and now they own the rights to this heirloom’s name. What’s worse, both genetically engineered plants and heirloom types are grown in close proximity. They are also harvested, cleaned and processed for storage with the same equipment. Any heirloom variety seed coming from such a seed house cannot help but be tainted.
It should also not go unnoticed that the behemoth ag corporation cannot stop messing with seed. Besotted with playing God, and tampering with the natural makeup of food plants, there is no guarantee that any of these once pure varieties has not been altered to suit their purposes. Not only is this cause for concern by any enlightened home gardener, you cannot reproduce the same fruit or vegetable with seeds from such a plant. Saving seed to start your next crop requires using open pollinated seed. Avoid any seed that has this behind the name in the catalog: (F1) or (F2). This shows you these are hybridized and what generation of cross breeding the seed will be.
Remember that there is no regulation that requires labeling of genetically engineered seed or the resulting GMO foods that comes from their cultivation. Also, any seed company can grow, harvest and sell the same varieties – but they cannot market it under the right name or even something similar to it. Nothing like adding even more confusion to trying to grow pure, nutritious food! Conscientious seed companies who know you’re trying to grow real food will label their offerings as open pollinated right along with whether it is organic seed or not.
Heirloom Variety Names Owned by Monsanto
Beans: Aliconte, Brio, Bronco, Cadillac, Ebro, Etna, Eureka, Festina, Gina, Goldmine, Goldenchild, Labrador, Lynx, Magnum, Matador, Spartacus, Storm, Strike, Stringless Blue Lake 7, Tapia, Tema
Broccoli: Coronado Crown, Major, Packman
Cabbage: Atlantis, Golden Acre, Headstart, Platinum Dynasty, Red Dynasty
Carrot: Bilbo, Envy, Forto, Juliana, Karina, Koroda PS, Royal Chantenay, Sweetness III
Cauliflower: Cheddar, Minuteman
Cucumber: Babylon, Cool Breeze Imp., Dasher II, Emporator, Eureka, Fanfare HG, Marketmore 76, Mathilde, Moctezuma, Orient Express II, Peal, Poinsett 76, Salad Bush, Sweet Slice, Sweet Success PS, Talladega
Eggplant: Black Beauty, Fairytale, Gretel, Hansel, Lavender Touch, Twinkle, White Lightening
Hot Pepper: Anaheim TMR 23, Ancho Saint Martin, Big Bomb, Big Chile brand of Sahuaro, Caribbean Red, Cayenne Large Red Thick, Chichen Itza, Chichimeca, Corcel, Garden Salsa SG, Habanero, Holy Mole brand of Salvatierro, Hungarian Yellow Wax Hot, Ixtapa X3R, Lapid, Mariachi brand of Rio de Oro, Mesilla, Milta, Mucho Nacho brand of Grande, Nainari, Serrano del Sol brand of Tuxtlas, Super Chile, Tam Vera Cruz
Lettuce: Braveheart, Conquistador
Melon: Early Dew, Sante Fe, Saturno
Onion: Candy, Cannonball, Century, Red Zeppelin, Savannah Sweet, Sierra Blanca, Sterling, Vision
Pumpkin: Applachian, Harvest Moon, Jamboree HG, Orange Smoothie, Phantom, Prize Winner, Rumbo, Snackface, Spirit, Spooktacular, Trickster
Squash: Ambassador, Canesi, Clarita, Commander, Dixie, Early Butternut, Gold Rush, Grey Zucchini, Greyzini, Lolita, Papaya Pear, Peter Pan, Portofino, President, Richgreen Hybrid Zucchini, Storr’s Green, Sungreen, Sunny Delight, Taybelle PM
Sweet Corn: Devotion, Fantasia, Merit, Obession, Passion, Temptation
Sweet Pepper: Baron, Bell Boy, Big Bertha PS, Biscayne, Blushing Beauty, Bounty, California Wonder 300, Camelot, Capistrano, Cherry Pick, Chocolate Beauty, Corno Verde, Cubanelle W, Dumpling brand of Pritavit, Early Sunsation, Flexum, Fooled You brand of Dulce, Giant Marconi, Gypsy, Jumper, Key West, King Arthur, North Star, Orange Blaze, Pimiento Elite, Red Knight, Satsuma, Socrates, Super Heavyweight, Sweet Spot
Tomato: Amsterdam, Beefmaster, Betterboy, Big Beef, Burpee’s Big Boy, Caramba, Celebrity, Cupid, Early Girl, Granny Smith, Health Kick, Husky Cherry Red, Jetsetter brand of Jack, Lemon Boy, Margharita, Margo, Marmande VF PS, Marmara, Patio, Phoenix, Poseidon 43, Roma VF, Royesta, Sun Sugar, Super Marzano, Sweet Baby Girl, Tiffany, Tye-Dye, Viva Italia, Yaqui
Watermelon: Apollo, Charleston Grey, Crimson Glory, Crimson Sweet, Eureka, Jade Star, Mickylee, Olympia
Your best approach to avoiding Monsanto seed?
There is a full list of safe seed houses available here from the same people who compiled this list of variety names. You’ll find safe seed shopping for the US, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Fruit image courtesy of Jiri Brosovsky.
If you don't find her at the desk - check the gardens. When not writing and weeding, she enjoys a good book, painting junk furniture, and blending the harvest of heirloom tomatoes and chiles into salsas.