There are a lot of misconceptions about GMOs out there. I suppose when food becomes mostly about science and patents, it can get a bit confusing. I’m here to set the record straight on a common area of confusion, hybrid crops vs. GMOs.
What Are Hybrid Crops?
These seeds are developed through cross-breeding two different, but compatible plants. This is a phenomenon that occurs in nature, but with the help of farmers, the process has been sped up. What normally takes a dozen or so generations to develop, can now occur in the first generation. It’s a fairly low-tech method, best described by sticking with the “breeding” analogy. Think of dog breeders for a moment. Decades are spent selecting only the finest bloodlines of a specific dog breed for the most desirable companion. Farmers are doing the same thing with fruits or vegetables by taking two pure parent plants with ideal traits and pollinating them to form a new variety, with preferred qualities from the mother and father. These plant “puppies” often turn out to be a new favorite, like grapefruit, boysenberries, or broccolini, which are all hybrids.
What Are GMO Crops?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are first created in a lab, rather than a field. The actual DNA of the plant is altered. The genes are spliced with other species, bacteria, pesticides, or whatever else the biotech companies deem fit. This creates a cell structure that is unstable. If we return to our dog breeding analogy again, this would be like somehow breeding a Shar-Pei with Botox to get rid of all the wrinkles. It would never occur in nature. Neither would these GMO crops.
The difference between hybrid crops and GMO are very clear. One is simply a farmer assisted blend of naturally reproducing plants, called a hybrid. The other, GMOs, are created by a white-coat lab technician splicing DNA with unnatural components.
Now you know the differences between not only the finished product, but also the process it takes to get there. It’s a matter of Farming v. Pharming.