Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Its like an old sepia toned tin-type photo....
Welcome back to a snow dappled edition of Lost in the Farmer’s Market, this is our first episode of February. Now as you know, these episodes used to be posted on Saturdays hence the actual post date for this would have been February first. Because we’ve got a booth at the Fayetteville farmer’s Market the episodes are released early, so you can see what we’ll have in advance. With that said today’s topic is the first of a two part series defining the terms Genetically Modified Organism and Hybrid. Next week we will cover the terms Heritage, Heirloom and Open Pollenated.

So let’s get started with the term GMO, this is a abbreviation for Genetically Modified Organism. There is a lot of hype about this one and in truth a lot of it is justified. The corporations most mentioned for being involved with these creations act as though they are accountable to no one. Monsanto in particular is willing to do anything to loosen the restraints on its activities to make a buck. But what is a GMO? Well by definition I believe there are five types of GMO, each with a level of risk.

GMO Type I
Type 1 GMOs are genetically altered specifically using their own existing genetics. No foreign genetics are introduced and the goal is to get say a redder tomato or a carrot that has more beta carotene. This would be a much more expensive equal to say open pollination and selection of plants for traits.

-The individual specimen’s own genes are used.
-Genetic clones are common.
-Pollen cross contamination is noticeable but not a significant risk.
-Low risk.

Type II GMOs are a lot like Type I in that the selected organism’s own genetics are used. Genes from closely related members of the same family are also used.

-Genetics from plants in same family, and are generally directly related.
-Original genetics are still being used.
-Pollen cross contamination is a possible problem.
-Intermediate risk.

Type III GMOs are where the weird science comes in. Type three’s will often have something extra added in. Perhaps making a redder tomato was not enough, now the labs want to make a redder tomato that is perfectly shaped…so they unlock a gene for redness, borrow a gene from another tomato to make the tomato’s skin more lustrous and then they borrow a gene from say an eggplant to make the flesh firmer. Ok so all plants in the example were from the night shade family. The problem is Eggplant and Tomato are highly unlikely to cross in nature so that eggplant gene, would never have crossed so then have a unnatural plant that may manifest unexpected results later on.

-May use genes from plants in the same family.
-Gene sources may bear unforeseen effects.
-Pollen contamination is likely especially if source genetics are not carefully selected.
-Moderate Risk.

Type IV GMOs are where the real problems begin because now the labs want to cross families entirely. They want to sell you a blue rose, so they use a petunia gene to make the rose produce shades of blue otherwise impossible. They want your corn to be pest resistant, so they use a natural pesticide gene from a potato so the corn produces its own pesticide. The list goes on but basically at this level the crossings of genetic material is all impossible in nature so these plants must be lab cultured and then grown on and in theory should be field tested (for 5-10 years which never happens) and FDA trial tested for 20 years (also never happens).

-Genetics cross plant families.
-Pollen cross contamination is a constant issue.
-Mutation risk is present.
-Potential Acute Toxicity if used as food product.
-Moderate-High Risk.

GMO Type V
The final type of GMO is type V, which refers to the genetic structuring of an organism to do things that otherwise would not be normal in nature. Prime examples are pesticide immune strains of corn which otherwise would not have such protections, another example can be seen with the ‘terminator seeds’.

-Uses genetic material from differing families of plant.
-May also use genetic material from non-plant species.
-Has high risk of cross-contamination via pollen.
-Has high risk of counter adaptation by ‘weed’ species.
-Can be bred to force financial servitude to company.
-Long term health effects suggested by independent study to be negative.
-High Risk.

The next term to discuss is ‘Hybrid’, which has gotten a bad rap in recent days as it is often lumped in with genetically modified organism as a bad thing. In truth a hybrid is generally any sexual cross between two compatible organisms. If we were talking humans we might call that ‘Mixed’ or for a dog ‘Mutt’. Genetically it’s the same thing, however for the purposes of agriculture it’s really little more than an observation of fact. Hybrid plants are not inherently bad as long as their documentation clearly indicates what plants were crossed to get the resulting offspring. That would be the real curve ball in the term hybrid.  If one crosses two heirlooms they still get a heirloom-hybrid, likewise if one crosses a successful hybrid with an heirloom you still get a hybrid-heirloom of another sort. However if you cross a heirloom with a compatible GMO variety, then you get a GMO-hybrid. In short as long as you can verify the parentage of a species then hybrids are not a problem and in fact are a normal part of agriculture. A good case in point is can be found with some of the more famous herbs as of late.

Mentha x piperita f. citrata ‘Chocolate Mint’ – a clear genetic cross between upwards of three mint types.  Plain old mint was crossed with a hybrid of Pepper mint and Citrus mint and then was selected for scent and flavor.

Basilicum kilimandscharicum x Basilicum ‘Dark Opal’  or Blue African Basil – A genetic cross between Camphor Basil and a cultivated variety of sweet basil.

Ocimum x citriodorum ‘Pesto Purpetuo’ – A flowerless sterile basil expressly intended for use in pesto. It is a cross of sweet basil and a variety of Lemon Basil.

As you can see the term hybrid isn’t so scary as long as you can figure out your plant’s history. You want to seek out clean non-GMO organic certified seeds to verify what you are growing is not coming with an unwanted genetic guest. Due to the size of this topic we will have to continue next week with the terms Heirloom, Heritage and Open pollenated.  With all that covered in detail we move onto the market information for this weekend.

The BL2 mascot is out enjoying the winter splendor.
The Fayetteville City/Farmer’s Market occurs every Saturday from 9:00 AM through 1:00 PM. The market is located at 325 Franklin Street in the parking lot of the Fayetteville Transportation museum. Since we are a year-round operation you can expect there will be fresh foods of some type available at the market and as always yours truly is always prepared with garden advice and great plants. Here is a list of what will be coming to the market this week.

Southward Skies: A northern guide to southern Gardening
This is the second edition of my book, which was published using data compiled from several years of test garden operations. It’s written to aid gardeners of all skill levels in successful garden methods that are targeted for the south east but had proven to be a valued resource for gardens across the weather coast. It’s certainly a good gift for that gardener you know or for yourself if you’d like to have a reliable field guide. The book costs $25.00 and we do take checks for this item, you can even have it signed.

Black Magic Fertilizer
That’s right you’ve heard about it in trials all summer. This specially formulated liquid fertilizer was made and tested at the test gardens using natural ingredients and no chemicals. The result explosive growth, great harvests and of course no environmental side effects! We’re making batches of this stuff to order, at $6.00 per gallon of fertilizer. You can either order it at the market and pick it up the next week or have it delivered to your home in the Fayetteville area for a delivery charge of an additional $2.00.

Fresh Cut Herbs
Bundles of Fresh Rosemary, short stem ($1.00)
Bagged Lavender ($2.00)

House Plants
8x Holiday Cactus ($3.00)

Garden Plants
2x Morris-Heading Cabbage Collards 0.5 gal pot ($3.00)
2x Georgia Collards, 0.5 gal pot ($3.00)
So this concludes the first LITFM Episode of February, we came in with snow which as the pictures posted will attest was quite lovely. For note we received 1” of snow, which translates to 0.5” of actual precipitation. I’d say we’re coming into the New Year just right for precipitation. I hope to see some of you down at the market, and as always keep ‘em growing!

It's so cold and quiet all I could hear when I took this picture was the delicate crinkling of the snow falling and the rare sound of a vehicle engine very distant. No music nothing else dared break winters imposed silence. It was glorious!


Original Title: "Take Off! To the Great White South!"
 -Author's note:The title came to mind because of the above picture and then we dropped it because it simply sounded wrong.

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