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Say NO to GM Vegetables

December 17th, 2009

Last year I started paying particular attention the seeds I ordered. I have been trying to buy heirloom seeds from small seed houses that aren’t tied to Monsanto. With the introduction of a new GM eggplant earlier this year and questions by a lot of readers I thought we could talk a little about genetically modified seeds.
One hundred fifty years ago the United States didn’t have a commercial seed industry; today we have the world’s largest. Whichever catalog you order from (of the big companies), you’re probably getting the same seed as people who order from the other companies. Virtually every large mail-order garden company in the United States uses a seed broker to supply them with seeds. These broker’s find seeds at a low price then they contract with competing umbrella corporations, selling the same seed to everyone.
With the purchase of Seminis in 1995, Monsanto is now estimated to control between 85-90% of the U.S. nursery market (this includes pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers). By buying up the competition and lobbying the government to make saving seeds illegal, Monsanto has slowly been taking over all of the seeds. I don’t know about you, but from what I’ve heard about how Monsanto terrorized farmers I don’t really want them controlling all the seeds, especially the ones for the things I’d like to grow in my backyard!

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.

In large part, these numbers reflect usage of Seminis varieties within large industrial production geared towards supermarkets, but Seminis seeds are also widely used by regional conventional and organic farmers as well as market and home gardeners. Johnny’s, Territorial, Fedco, Nichol’s, Rupp, Osborne, Snow, and Stokes are among the dozens of commercial and garden seed catalogs that carry the more than 3,500 varieties that comprise Seminis’ offerings. This includes dozens of All-American Selections and an increasing number of varieties licensed to third parties for certified organic seed production.

The brand-name companies under Seminis (such as Petoseed) have developed, released, produced and distributed varieties common to the market farmer and even home gardener. These include Big Beef, Sweet Baby Girl and Early Girl Tomatoes; Simpsons Elite and Red Sails Lettuces; Red Knight and King Arthur Peppers; Gold Rush and Blackjack Zucchinis; Stars & Stripes Melon; and Bush Delicata and Early Butternut squashes. (Rodale Institute)

What does this mean for us as gardeners and consumers? This means we’re losing our choices of what we want to buy and grow. Thousands of varieties are disappearing. In 1981 there were approximately 5,000 varieties of vegetable seeds to choose from in U.S. catalogs, today there are less than 500. For someone like me that’s very sad. I love to grow the weird interesting things that are difficult to find.
So what are we supposed to do? Just because you buy seeds from places that offer non-GMO seeds, this doesn’t mean that Monsanto doesn’t own the rights to some of the seeds they sell. Buying organic doesn’t help you in this situation either. Here are a few of the varieties they own:

Beans: EZ Gold, Eureka, Goldrush, Kentucky King, Lynx, Bush Blue Lake 94

Carrot: Nutri-Red, Sweet Sunshine, Karina, Chantenay #1, Chantilly, Lariat

Cucumber: Dasher II, Daytona, Turbo, Speedway, Sweet Slice, Yellow Submarine, Sweeter Yet

Esmeralda, Lolla Rossa (and derivatives), Red Sails, Red Tide, Blackjack, Summer time, Monet, Baby Star, Red Butterworth

Melons: Alaska, Bush Whopper, Casablanca, Dixie Jumbo, Early Crisp

Onion: Arsenal, Hamlet, Red Zeppelin, Mars, Superstar, Candy

Peppers: Valencia, Camelot, King Arthur, Red Knight, Aristotle, Northstar, Biscane, Caribbean Red, Serrano del Sol, Early Sunsation, Fat and Sassy

Spinach: Melody, Unipack 151Spinach, Bolero, Cypress

Squash: Autumn Delight, Bush Delicata (producer-vendor), Really Big Butternut, Early Butternut, Buckskin Pumpkin (AAS), Seneca Autumn, Table ace

Tomato: Big Beef, Beefmaster, First Lady I and II, Early Girl, Pink Girl, Golden Girl, Sunguard, Sun Chief Sweet, Baby Girl, Sweet Million

Watermelon: Royal Flush, Royal Star (pet), Stargazer, Starbright, Stars and Stripes, Yellow doll, Tiger

Zucchini/Summer Squash: Blackjack, Daisy, Fancycrook, Sunny Delight, Lolita, Sungreen

So what do we do if we don’t want to grow GM vebetables, or support Monsanto and their bullying? We can buy open pollinated heirloom seeds from places like Freedom Seeds, Seed Savers, Sustainable Seed Company and Baker Creek (along with other places, if you have good seed houses make sure you list them in the comments and I’ll start a resources section that lists them all). Some small seed houses offer both kinds of seeds. I was chatting with Renee of Renee’s Garden and she explained to me why they still carry some seeds owned by Monsanto:

There are many excellent hybrids that were bred in the 60s and 70s that many organic farmers and small-scale farmers use routinely…. (for example it’s hard to beat Early Girl and Big Beef for wide adaptability all over the country, good flavor and, very importantly for gardeners in the hot and humid areas, excellent disease resistance ) Unfortunately, with all this controversy floating about, sometimes home gardeners don’t realize that hybrids has nothing at all to do with genetic engineering, which is a very different thing.

For my seed company, I pay the most attention to what does best in home gardens; so I sell many open pollinated varieties, lots of heirlooms, and also some excellent hybrids. A lot of the hybrids I sell are from Europe where flavor and wide adaptability are important considerations. We trial our varieties for several seasons before I introduce them and I
write my own packet backs based on our growing experience and we have also trial gardens in Vermont Seattle in Florida so we can be assured things will grow well all over before we introduce them.

I think she raises a great point, hybrids aren’t genetically engineered. Some hybrids are very valuable for commercial organic growing and can be very benficial for home gardeners, especially if you struggle with a specific pest or disease. You may need to grow a hybrid if you want to grow a specific vegetable in your climate.
I’m not necessarily against growing hybrids, although I think they’re a symptom of the loss of regional seeds. Long ago people grew seeds and traded with neighbors. Each area had seeds that did well in their climate and could fight off diseases and pests specific to their area of the country. Sadly, we’ve lost the treasure of regional seeds and with them a lot of regional gardening wisdom. We no longer have neighbors we can get local seeds from or talk to about which kind of cucumber does best in our climate. We’re left to guess by what looks good in the seed catalogs, sometimes they work beautifully, sometimes they fail miserably. Occasionally, we stumble upon an old timer that still grows old varieties and can tell us about them (check your local farmer’s markets).
This is one of those areas I haven’t fully made up my mind about yet. On one hand I can see the benefits of hybrids, on the other I really hate supporting Monsanto in any way at all, even if it is by only buying 1-2 packets of their seeds. I’m sure with enough trial and error I could find a viable open pollinated option for just about any vegetable I grow. I’ll keep using up the hybrid seeds that I have, but I’ll slowly phase them out. I really want to grow only seeds open pollinated seeds that I can save seeds from if I’d like to. Since I am in the place where I don’t “need” to grow my own food, I am able to experiment with varieties and experience loss. I realize some market gardeners and growers aren’t in this position. I also want to support open pollinated seeds because I want to ensure their survival. Sure, I don’t want ‘Early Girl’ tomatoes to be lost for all those that love them, but my ‘Cold Set’ performed beautifully for me here in my cold climate and I’ll keep growing them instead.

What about you, where do you stand on this issue? Do you have any great recommendations for small seed houses that aren’t owned/operated by large companies? Any great companies that specialize in open pollinated heirloom varieties?

A few good articles for more reading on this topic:

  • Civil Eats: Why Seed Consolidation Matters by Paula Crossfield
  • GMO vs. Selective Breeding, by Green Living Tips
  • 55 Comments to “Say NO to GM Vegetables”
    1. Carol on December 17, 2009 at 6:59 am

      Thank you for this very important post! It just sickens me how Monsanto owns not only all that you mention but our politicians too. It is incredulous to imagine that one could not harvests ones own seeds or that plants would be manipulated not to produce seeds. Monsanto is a very troubling conglomerate and one we should not support.
      .-= Carol´s last blog ..Garden Bloggers Bloom Day . . . Into Day . . . Going By =-.

      Reply to Carol's comment

    2. megan on December 17, 2009 at 8:40 am

      I think that the problem with hybrids is that they force a grower to be dependent on an outside source for seed. This dependence becomes a complete loss of control as companies like Monsanto continue to narrow the selection of seed more and more each season. Eventually, the grower no longer has an option and is forced to grow the varieties that the corporation has decided are the “best”. Which is why we as consumers ended up with so few choices at the market. Supermarkets and seed corporations (and our governmental “standards”) have made it nearly impossible for growers to provide unique varieties and remain commercially competitive. Thankfully, it seems as if that is beginning to change, but it will be a slow process that isn’t helped by the fact that the average consumer has no idea what any of these terms mean and Monsanto spends a lot of money aiming to keep it that way.
      .-= megan´s last blog ..Pozole – Sans Pigs Head =-.

      Reply to megan's comment

    3. tigress on December 17, 2009 at 9:03 am

      great post sista! i was just over on your seed catalog post to say that a great seed catalog that we order from a lot is seeds of change. i am with you on not supporting monsato in any way as long as i can help it.
      .-= tigress´s last blog ..deee-licious beets & updates! =-.

      Reply to tigress's comment

    4. deb on December 17, 2009 at 9:29 am

      I am completely against Monsanto—it’s disgusting how much they are allowed to manipulate the food industry. I also thought monopolies were illegal in the U.S. and I would have to argue that Monsanto monopolizes the industry. Bill Gates wasn’t allowed to monopolize so why is Monsanto

      The statement about them wanting to make seed saving illegal is obscene~~~how is it our government would think that is ok?? I shudder to think about what could happen

      More people need to become educated about Monsanto and the impact they are having. In our societys tunnel vision of more money/power, people have forgotten that they need to take care of the basics; ie: food. If Monsanto controls the food, they control the people and that is something everyone should be very, very concerned about.
      .-= deb´s last blog ..Rate your State =-.

      Reply to deb's comment

    5. Jennifer on December 17, 2009 at 9:54 am

      Thanks for the post! I hope you don’t mind, but I shared it with the Folians to pass the information on.

      Reply to Jennifer's comment

    6. raw milk « Our Green Living Journey on December 17, 2009 at 10:08 am

      […] Another garden blog I follow, Chiot’s Run, did a really great post today on genetically modified seeds.  I think it’s a really great explanation for people who don’t understand the problem with GM seeds and why so many see them as being a problem.  Check it out here.  […]

      Reply to raw milk « Our Green Living Journey's comment

    7. Sherri on December 17, 2009 at 10:11 am

      Such a great post! Thanks for this Susy! I linked to it and shared it via email w/ friends. More people need to be made aware of this issue!

      Reply to Sherri's comment

    8. Dave on December 17, 2009 at 10:14 am

      Very good post! I hosted a giveaway the other day and the specter of GMO came up. It’s a troubling issue in so many ways like you highlighted. I decided this year to order mostly from Baker’s Creek and Seed Saver’s Exchange. It’s important to me to be able to save the seeds each year reliably. Like you I plan of phasing out the hybrids. There is another heirloom grower here in TN at Marianna’s Heirloom Seeds. She doesn’t use GM seeds and I think she grows all the seeds by herself.

      Also Hybrids can be replanted from seed, you just don’t know exactly what you are going to get! One of the best tasting tomatoes I ever had was a really ugly one that popped up from the compost. This was before I used heirlooms at all so it had to be a hybrid offspring.
      .-= Dave´s last blog ..A 10’x2′ Raised Bed for the Vegetable Garden =-.

      Reply to Dave's comment

    9. The Mom on December 17, 2009 at 10:15 am

      Monsanto is certainly evil. I’ve been trying for the past few years to buy only open pollinated and save my own seeds whenever possible. I hope to one day be able to skip the seed catalogs and pull only from my own seed supply and those of my friends. Some of the companies I order from are Fedco, Pinetree and Baker Creek.
      .-= The Mom´s last blog ..Looking back =-.

      Reply to The Mom's comment

    10. Thomas on December 17, 2009 at 10:16 am

      EXCELLENT post, Susy. This past fall, when I first started my garden, I purchased a great deal of seeds from Johnny’s (mostly hybrids). Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit concerned about where the seeds come. For this spring, I’ve purchased many heirloom varieties from Botanical Interests (don’t know where their seeds come from) but am planning to buy the remaining bulk from Baker Creek. I’m also considering joining Seed Savers Exchange in order to get access to their Seed Savers Yearbook, which contains thousands of varieties of seeds saved by fellow members. I have a feeling it will be a great way to source rare heirloom seed varieties.

      Keep up the great work!
      .-= Thomas´s last blog ..The Gift =-.

      Reply to Thomas's comment

    11. Mike on December 17, 2009 at 10:33 am

      Great post, this is a very important thing to keep in mind. We always try to buy most of our seed as open pollinated varieties. Here are a few smaller companies that we buy from that to the best of my knowledge still proudly focus on this type of non GM open pollinated seed.

      Bountiful Gardens

      Wild Garden Seed

      High Mowing Organic Seeds

      The Thyme Garden Herb Company

      John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds
      .-= Mike´s last blog ..A Glimpse Into the Future =-.

      Reply to Mike's comment

    12. Michelle on December 17, 2009 at 11:38 am

      Thank you for sharing this so clearly. I’ve been wondering about this a lot…and have been buying heirloom when I “remember”. But now I can do more thorough study on my own thanks to your links and your information.

      This whole,thing is scary to me…and in my opinion, boils down to control…which is terrifying!

      I will be buying heirloom from here on out. Thank you again.
      .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Wednesday in the Word. =-.

      Reply to Michelle's comment

      • Susy on December 17, 2009 at 2:18 pm

        I agree, the control issue is what really bothers me. It’s kind of scary to me that one company owns so many of the seeds. When you control seeds you control food.

        Reply to Susy's comment

    13. Louise on December 17, 2009 at 11:48 am

      Thank you Susy, for this informative post. Like yourself, I am phasing out the all the none heirloom seeds. I am totally against any entity that is or becomes a monopoly. The idea of not having the right to save your own seeds (or grow your own food – I read somewhere that there is talk to make it illegal as well) is downright scary. My new goal for 2010 is to acquire as many heirloom varieties for everything I like to grow to ensure that I continue having a choice when it comes to growing my own.

      Reply to Louise's comment

    14. Michaelann on December 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm

      ATTRA has a site which provides sources for organic seed. The emphasis is on small alternative seed companies offering open-pollinated vegetable, flower, and herb seed. Easy to search by state. Of course, you will need to research the quality and integrity of each business individually.

      Reply to Michaelann's comment

    15. Dan on December 17, 2009 at 1:30 pm

      I don’t have a problem with hybrid seed. Most heirloom seed are hybrid as well, they have just been stabilized long ago. It has been going on since the beginning of time: Plants cross by nature or the gardener and then the ones with the best traits are selected out and stabilized. With that said I do lean towards old varieties because as you stated, modern hybrid seed offers very little selection. It is also nice to be able to harvest seed that will most likely grow true to type.

      Now GMO on the other hand I really don’t agree with. The fact that they are allowed to plant huge fields of the stuff and are under the notion it will not cross into non-gmo crops is absurd. I find it really troubling. They are polluting our seed supply so they can pump out 2lbs bags of sugar 10 cents cheaper, it is just disgusting.

      I am very thankfully for all the seed banks and seed savers out there that at least hold onto some diversity.
      .-= Dan´s last blog ..2010 Veggie Patch Plan, Preliminary =-.

      Reply to Dan's comment

    16. Harmony on December 17, 2009 at 2:57 pm

      I got my start with heirloom vegetables through I also buy through Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, although they do carry hybrid corn I believe.

      Our policy is to only buy heirlooms from companies that are trying to preserve seed diversity. If we have a total crop failure and it’s too late to start from seed, we attempt to buy heirloom plants at a nursery. If we can’t find heirloom plants, we hold our noses and buy a hybrid, rationalizing that it’s better to have home grown organic hybrids than to eat store produce.

      Now if only we had a larger garden to work with….

      Reply to Harmony's comment

    17. Jackie on December 17, 2009 at 3:36 pm

      Thank you for this excellent post. I hope more people will take this into consideration when purchasing seeds this year. I made 2 seeds orders this week: Baker Creek and TomatoFest. Both seem to be “real” seed people.
      .-= Jackie´s last blog ..Easy homemade lemon drop lotion =-.

      Reply to Jackie's comment

    18. MAYBELLINE on December 17, 2009 at 5:50 pm

      Fabulous post with gobs of information.
      Gary Ibsen really started me off on learning more about organic seeds and how to save seeds. Here’s a site to learn more about the Tomato Man who started Tomato Fest.
      .-= MAYBELLINE´s last blog ..Fog Delay =-.

      Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

    19. Morgan G on December 17, 2009 at 8:02 pm

      So glad you raised this issue, Susy. The thought of a corporation OWNING seed genes is terrifying to me and I really wish this issue would get more press. While farmers and home-gardeners may hold this problem near and dear to their hearts, I believe even non-gardeners would if only they knew how this affected them. With this seed monopoly, Monsanto holds our food and health in their hands. Thank you for supplying links to other companies to purchase from.
      .-= Morgan G´s last blog ..Good Neighbors =-.

      Reply to Morgan G's comment

    20. Conny on December 17, 2009 at 8:07 pm

      I so appreciate the effort you put in this very important subject!! I’m right there with you – that’s where I’m standing on the subject.

      I will definitely refer back to this post when I am ready to order non-GMO seeds. Thanks more than I can say.
      .-= Conny´s last blog ..Corner view – books =-.

      Reply to Conny's comment

    21. JP on December 17, 2009 at 11:21 pm

      valuable info for sure! I could see wanting the varieties’ ownership histories printed on a card in my wallet for impulse seed shopping. Just like how dieter’s have the calories for fast food menus on them at all times!

      Reply to JP's comment

    22. Mangochild on December 18, 2009 at 8:56 am

      Great post. I ordered my seed catalog from Bakers Creek this morning, and plan to get one from Sustainable Seed Co. as well. Last year I got seeds from Sustainable Seed Co. and from Johnnys. I’d like to use Bakers and Sustainable this year, as I learn more about the issues surrounding seeds and control of the varieties of crops we grow.

      One of my biggest complaints is that much of this information is relatively hidden from the average consumer. I certainly didn’t realize it until I started doing more research and reading the information from you and other bloggers. Whatever a consumer’s decision, it should at least be made with all the information at hand. I make choices that are right for me, and those calculations may be different from others – and that’s fine. But hiding the ball and forcing us to make decisions that we might not make had we more information is just unfair.
      .-= Mangochild´s last blog ..Questions on Strawberries =-.

      Reply to Mangochild's comment

    23. the inadvertent farmer on December 18, 2009 at 12:29 pm

      Wow Susy…I have had this heavy on my mind lately. I buy almost exclusively from Territorial since its local and I will certainly be having a chat with them about their seed sources.

      I have also decided to phase out most hybrids and must say I am so sad to see sweet million on the list of seeds Monsanto owns…they are one of our favorites but will not longer purchase them.

      Thanks for the great info…I would love if you would repost this at NDiN. Kim
      .-= the inadvertent farmer´s last blog ..Friday Funnies a Christmas Star! =-.

      Reply to the inadvertent farmer's comment

      • Susy on December 18, 2009 at 1:28 pm

        I’ll have to post it over there in Jan.

        Reply to Susy's comment

    24. the inadvertent farmer on December 18, 2009 at 12:49 pm

      You might want to read this

      .-= the inadvertent farmer´s last blog ..Friday Funnies a Christmas Star! =-.

      Reply to the inadvertent farmer's comment

    25. Jerri Cook on December 18, 2009 at 1:37 pm

      Great research, finding some of the seeds owned by Monsanto. Would you be interested in doing a guest post on my Countryside blog? If so, please contact me at the e-mail address I provided with this comment. Again, good work.
      .-= Jerri Cook´s last blog ..Breaking the Law: The Raw Milk Controversy =-.

      Reply to Jerri Cook's comment

    26. Josh Kirschenbaum on December 18, 2009 at 4:11 pm

      I appreciate you providing information about the very important topic of genetically modified seed. I am the Product Development Director for Territorial Seed Company and there are a few points in your posting that I would like to clarify.

      Territorial Seed Company remains and has always been a family owned and operated company since it was founded in 1979. We fund extensive trials on our 44-acre certified organic research farm to make sure that our offerings are the absolute best for home gardeners and small market growers. Unlike much of our competition, we are unique in the sense that we produce a good portion of the seed that we offer in our catalog. We take pride in the fact that as of 2009, over 25 percent of the vegetable seed varieties that we offered in our catalog were produced certified organically on our farm. While we do indeed have seed suppliers around the world, our farm is our largest supplier. We have never offered GM seed and have signed the Safe Seed Pledge.

      In your posting, you state “whichever catalog you order from, you’re probably getting the same seed as everyone else…”. If the seed is a hybrid, then you are most likely correct since seed breeders typically do not share information about parent lines of a particular hybrid variety. However, there are often times several different suppliers of open pollinated varieties, so the seed that you get from one mail order company very well may be different than that of another. When I evaluate our yearly trials, I assure you that I am looking for the best performing varieties, not the ones that are least expensive. We do not use brokers to find low priced seed-we deal directly with the seed supplier or as I mentioned earlier, grow it ourselves.

      Here is what Tom Johns, the president of Territorial Seed Company has to say about our stance on Monsanto:
      “Territorial Seed Company; like other home garden seed companies commonly mentioned are NOT owned by Monsanto. Furthermore Territorial is NOT a seed dealer for Monsanto or Seminis the vegetable seed producing company acquired by Monsanto. Seed dealerships from Seminis are reserved for those wholesale seed companies that serve Seminis’s primary market; the commercial vegetable farmer/grower. These dealers have access to the 3500 varieties that you mention in your blog, we do not.

      Seminis, (formally Petoseed) does still maintain a very small wholesale division devoted to marketing seed varieties for the home garden market. We do buy a small and ever decreasing amount of items from their wholesale list. These are primarily older home garden classics like Celebrity, Big Beef, and Super Marzano tomatoes. These unique varieties were bred by Petoseed; which at one time was the nation’s pemier seed house. This is the company we originally signed up to do business with 30 years ago. Many of these items are truly works of living art, crafted by old school seedsmen who utilized traditional breeding crosses as their canvas to create new varieties specifically for home gardeners. These items have been no less loved and appreciated by generations of home gardeners than the works of Monet or Warhol have been to the visual arts community.

      Since Monsanto’s purchase of Seminis I have become increasingly unsure of their continued commitment to their home garden seed division. Personally, I was surprised this tiny revenue generating department was not axed the day Monsanto bought Seminis. After all, Seminis Home Garden sales figures expressed in a company wide Monsanto revenue pie chart probably could not be detected as even a sliver. Recent actions reveal a trend that indicates perhaps a winding down of this historically important division. For the last three years many more varieties have been dropped from their lineup than new varieties added.

      The aggressive actions of Monsanto with regards to their hugely profitable GM corn, sorghum, and soy beans have earned them much bad press. It has brought calls by some people to boycott their products. By directing calls to action towards the home garden seed division will only help to speed the alimentation of the smallest and in my mind the best part of this huge company.
      All this comes at a time when home gardeners need more varieties not less. The major seed companies in the world today are focused on what makes them money-commercial seed varieties for commercial growers. It’s merely a by-product of their commercial efforts that will lead them to discover selections that benefit home gardeners. As a person who has spent their productive years trying to keep discontinued varieties in the hands of home gardeners, I find no joy in losing these old Petoseed varieties regardless of who currently owns the art.

      As another chapter is the seed industry comes to a close, another chapter is yet to be written. Looking forward we remain very optimistic about the future and are busy getting prepared for the changes ahead. As our customers know; Territorial funds extensive vegetable, flower and herb trials. For the past couple of years we have been evaluating for suitable replacements for current Seminis varieties. As replacements are found we are making the changes in our catalog offerings. Given the speed at which Seminis Home Garden is dropping varieties from their wholesale list, and the rate at which we are finding substitutes for others, our business dealings will soon be in the past. Sadly, some unique home garden classics will never have a true replacement and will become just a memory.

      The opinions perspectives in this letter are mine alone, and are just that.”

      Again, I appreciate you bringing up a very important topic. If you are interested in supporting exclusively organic, biodynamic, and naturally grown seed, please check out Territorial’s sister company, Abundant Life Seeds,

      Josh Kirschenbaum
      Territorial Seed Company

      Reply to Josh Kirschenbaum's comment

      • Susy on December 18, 2009 at 4:54 pm

        Thanks for your informative comment. I appreciate you taking the time to let us know about Territorial Seeds. I really appreciate seed companies like Territorial and Abundant Life Seeds, they’re the kind of companies I want to purchase from instead of the big-box seed places. I will add them to my list of seed suppliers when I compile one.

        Reply to Susy's comment

      • David King on December 20, 2009 at 1:57 pm

        I appreciate the original post (I have written a similar post at ), but I want to engage Josh’s thought that we should purchase some of the old great hybrids from companies in order to continue, “the alimentation of the smallest and in my mind the best part of this huge company.” But, as he observes in a previous paragraph, no amount of increased sales would cause a blip in the Monsanto profit report. I think a complete and total boycott of Monsanto is the ONLY resource (besides education) that we have. Any profit on San Marzano tomatoes (one of my favorites), will only fund more research into the profitable arenas of Monsanto’s products. Never on my dime!

        Josh, breed us an O/P San Marzano! Or something close. We DO need all the different varieties of seed we can get our hands on. And as you observe, the only way to keep good seed is to grow good seed. Do we really need to plant a Seminis seed instead of an O/P? Of course, YOU might have the room to grow both, but many of us have considerably less area. I live in Los Angeles, my sense of space is probably extremely confined compared to others. If I plant San Marzanos, I don’t plant Federle, so it’s a clear cut choice. I realize others can have more nuanced choices. But on the whole, I want to limit my exposure to Monsanto like I limit my exposure to plastics and Round Up. I’m not 100% insulated, but in the cases where I can choose, I do.

        Susy, add Fedco Seeds and Native Seeds/SEARCH to your seed company listings.


        Reply to David King's comment

        • Josh Kirschenbaum on December 21, 2009 at 1:11 pm

          Thank you for the response, David. It is actually Super Marzano that is a Seminis hybrid variety. I am glad that you mentioned that one in particular because in our Spring 2010 catalog (that should be in folks’ mailboxes any day now), we are offering an OP San Marzano type of tomato called San Marzano Gigante 3. We did not breed this variety but it performed very well in our trials and yields HUGE fruit. Over the past few years, one of the focuses of our trials has indeed been to find suitable alternatives to Seminis varieties. In our upcoming catalog, we dropped 10 more Seminis varieties and did not add any.

          to Josh Kirschenbaum's comment

    27. Thoughts of Seeds « Living In A Local Zone on December 19, 2009 at 8:59 am

      […] (at Chiots Run) shared an incredibly insightful post about genetically modified seeds that made me realize how much people (myself included) don’t […]

      Reply to Thoughts of Seeds « Living In A Local Zone's comment

    28. Ria on December 19, 2009 at 7:16 pm

      Lobbying the US government to make saving seeds illegal? I wonder how they plan to enforce that law. Seed police? Garden and kitchen raids? It’s a ludicrous proposition!

      The few seeds I’ve obtained (I plan to start my first garden in the spring) have come from a farm further north in my province, and obtained through a store that promotes organic and green everything, so I have some faith that my money’s going to support a local farmer rather than some big corporation that doesn’t actually need my dollar. I don’t know how long Monsanto’s reach is, and whether most Canadian seed companies fall under their shadow, but if more small farmers offered their seeds up like that, at least the money from buyers would be going into their pocket and not a heartless corporation’s.
      .-= Ria´s last blog ..Meat with meaning. =-.

      Reply to Ria's comment

    29. MrBrownThumb on December 20, 2009 at 4:29 am

      Hi Susy,

      First, let me say this is a really good post and I love the photography. Second, I’d like to say that I’m a big believer in growing heirlooms and older varieties. Like Dan mentions above many of our “heirlooms” are just hybrids that have stabilized and some are even results from sports of plants and seeds brought here from other places.

      I’m not sure exactly how big the commercial seed business in America was 150 years ago, but there was definitely one, if not the beginnings of one. The Landreth Seed Company was started in 1784 and it usually called the “oldest” one. I’m not sure who was first, but by the 1800s there was definitely a pretty big commercial seed industry in America. If not for these early experimenters and hybrids we wouldn’t have many of these “heirlooms” now. Just about every plant that we eat now at one point didn’t taste so good or grew so well and many don’t resemble the original plant at all. They’ve gotten to the point they are now because we’ve interfered with them.

      None of this means that I think that GMOs are ok, just that the history of heirlooms isn’t really as rosy ask we like to imagine it is. Plants are promiscuous things, ya know :0)

      Anyway, I started to geek out in the comment but have deleted half of it. Maybe the comment will not make much sense since I truncated half of it. So I will say that you should check out “The Garden of Invention” about Luther Burbank by Jane S. Smith. It has a lot of really wonky information about plants, seeds and vegetables and how many came to be so popular in America. It was published this spring so you should be able to get it in a bookstore or at your local library.

      Keep up the good work.
      .-= MrBrownThumb´s last blog ..Pink Adenium Obesum Flower =-.

      Reply to MrBrownThumb's comment

    30. Rajani on December 20, 2009 at 9:19 am

      Great work , Kudos to you!! Your research in this area is really admirable ..
      It is such a war to be what we want to be..

      Reply to Rajani's comment

    31. yasi on December 20, 2009 at 3:12 pm

      Thanks for your great post! I’ve been concerned lately about the seeds I select for my garden and the vegetables I buy at the farmers market. This concern stems from watching documentaries like “The World According to Monsanto” and “The Future of Food.” Please try to get a copy and watch these documentaries on DVD! It is alarming the number of heirlooms that have been lost since the early 1900s. I find most alarming the actions that Monsanto has taken against farmers. There must be health risks from eating Round-up Ready soybeans or other GMO products. I’m moving toward growing only heirlooms seeds that I purchase from companies that do not sell any Monsanto products. It does take research to find heirlooms with the properties to do well in difficult climates. But, I like to do that research in the colder months of the year when I’m not in my garden. I would like to hear more about your cold set tomato. I also hope that we can all share information about how heirlooms do in different climates so we can make better choices about our seed selection. If I do buy hybrid seeds, I plan to buy them from companies like High Mowing Seeds.

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    32. Ken Toney on December 21, 2009 at 3:54 pm

      Thank you for this timely, and helpful post. We’ve been saving seed for several years and have been trying to find sources for heirloom, non-Monsanto seeds. After reading your post, I ordered a catalog from Baker Creek. Two days later we received their 2010 catalog and will be ordering their jumbo heirloom seed collection, with 275 varieties of vegetables. Looks like we will finally be GMO free.
      .-= Ken Toney´s last blog ..Snow Day =-.

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    33. uberVU - social comments on December 25, 2009 at 2:24 am

      Social comments and analytics for this post…

      This post was mentioned on Twitter by milegardening: Say NO to GM Vegetables: Last year I started paying particular attention the seeds I ordered. I have been trying t…

      Reply to uberVU – social comments's comment

    34. gina Thomas on January 9, 2010 at 5:51 pm

      Thanks for visiting my blog and pointing me to your post about Monsanto. I guess with the winter here, we’re all thinking about seeds. I for one, am glad that we’ve started looking more into where our seeds come from. Even though it really seems like there are so few good options out there.

      Reply to gina Thomas's comment

    35. Maria on January 28, 2010 at 11:10 am

      So you’re saying (by photo) that Richter’s is in bed with Monsanto?

      Reply to Maria's comment

      • Susy on January 28, 2010 at 5:26 pm

        No, but you have to be careful, many seed companies are and the only way you can find out is by calling them, talking to them and doing some research. I believe Richter’s has taken the Safe Seed Pledge, but I’d have to look into it to be sure.

        Reply to Susy's comment

    36. Lauren on April 1, 2010 at 4:56 am

      I’ve been reading through your archives and although this post isn’t recent I thought I would add a seed company for any other Canadian readers out there: Salt Spring Seeds in BC is a great company, all heirloom, OP, and many rare/exotic offerings of vegetables, grains, herbs, and flowers.

      Reply to Lauren's comment

      • Susy on April 2, 2013 at 1:22 pm

        Thanks, what a great resource for my Canadian readers!

        Reply to Susy's comment

    37. K. TERRY on March 25, 2011 at 11:46 am

      Another example of corporate power within the government. Once again Americans are being turned into nutritional guinea pigs and nobody even asked if we were interested. I highly recomend everyone read the book
      Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey M. Smith. Its time we take a stand.

      Reply to K. TERRY's comment

    38. Jenny on December 7, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      I like that you touched upon regional seeds. I have found that while you might not be able to trade with neighbors, local co-ops often have a great selection of locally grown and harvested seeds, and you can sometimes get advice from the growers as well!

      Reply to Jenny's comment

    39. Jackie Davis on February 9, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      Wonderful! Loved the article and without going into great detail about what is happening to the people here in the US it stands to reason that there is something totally being done that is not jiving with Mother Nature, when it comes to our health. I’m so against Monsanto and all the chemicals I not only have ate in the past but I’m against breathing anything that vaporizes out of their doors. My gardens contain nothing but heirlooms and when I got that funny feeling that Monsanto & our government was secretly finding ways to stop us from saving seeds I fought back. I started growing “good for you” seeds and started a page on Facebook, The Heirloom Legacy…to where members have joined in to keep the heirloom legacy alive by sharing seeds, growing them, saving the seeds and passing them on. It’s to the point I believe people have awakened to see the disturbing truth of the chemical seeds and if we don’t keep protecting our rights to eat for our health at the top of the ladder….I certainly don’t want to be around to see a half human carrot someday. I’m tired of the mind control and I’m tired of people falling into the trap……instead of digging a hole with a death warrant seed, dig a hole and plant a good seed….the world and your body will thank you for it.

      Reply to Jackie Davis's comment

    40. Gary Narducci on April 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      It is a scary sitiuation between the Monsantos ruining the seeds and our money also being debased! As you seem to be an authority on gmo—do you think Early Girl tomatoes seedlings sold at Wall Mart are not GMO? Also are all Early Girl tomatoes hybrid and can they be geneticly modified? I live in the mountains and have short grow season—-been growing many Early Girls for home use for many years. Thank you! Gary

      Reply to Gary Narducci's comment

      • Susy on April 2, 2013 at 1:21 pm

        Yes the ‘Early Girl’ seed is owned by Monsanto. There are plenty of early tomatoes not owned by Monsanto, try: ‘Sub-Arctic’, ‘Stupice’ (both of there are very early in my gardens) also try ‘Bloody Butcher’, ‘Matina’, ‘Glacier’, ‘Manitoba’,’Rutgers’, ‘Black Krim’, ‘Siberia’, ‘Moskvich’, ‘Anna Russian’, ‘Uralskiy Ranniy’. If you search for cold tolerant or Russian tomatoes you’ll find some great varieties. I’ve had great success with Stupice, Sub Arctic and Rutgers in Ohio.

        Reply to Susy's comment

    41. jay on June 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      This is all very interesting and important but I’m still a bit confused…

      If a seed pack says “usda organic” does that mean it can not be a GMO?

      I recently started a garden and then it dawned on me that I may be growing GMOs. Yuck

      I just want to know if I’m safe going with usda certified organic seeds, or do I need to replace with ones that say “heirloom” specifically? Its confusing because the “heirloom” seeds I’ve seen aren’t labelled as being organic…

      Reply to jay's comment

      • Susy on June 25, 2013 at 7:55 pm

        You probably won’t be growing GMO’s, most are for commercial production. If you want to avoid GMO’s stick with the seed companies listed in my post: Heirloom Seed Companies

        Reply to Susy's comment

    42. Johnny on August 17, 2014 at 11:19 pm

      To my knowledge only some squash and sweet corn varieties is now GMO. Those are ONLY sold to the big farmers. There is NO other backyard vegetable seed that is GMO, but watch for changes. I expect any developed GMO seed will only be sold to big farming operations.
      Many heirlooms were once hybrids bred for years until they bred true. Plant breeding and selection has gone on for centuries. GMO is recent and I am against it at this point. Hybrids are fine, that’s crossing two plants (of the same species) to make a better plant. GMO is adding a foreign gene to a plant…

      Reply to Johnny's comment

      • Susy on April 18, 2016 at 7:23 pm

        GMO genes can and have contaminated many types of seeds purchased by home gardeners. Corn is definitely something to purchase from a source that tests for GMO contamination.

        Reply to Susy's comment

    43. H Buzenberg on April 28, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      Territorial Seed does not purchase any seed from Seminis and is committed to non gmo vegetable seed. Please do not spread this rumor, it is untrue.

      Reply to H Buzenberg's comment


    This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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