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Donna Balzer
Donna Balzer

Feb. 04, 2016 | Donna Balzer

Who's afraid of the GMO?

Important to read the fine print when purchasing seeds


Last spring, my grandkids, so excited to hear about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), decided to make their own genetically modified food. Cohen, 7, worked with his brother Kale, 9, to develop a plant that would grow potatoes in the ground and pumpkins above ground. They cut a hole in each potato, stuffed a pumpkin seed into the hole and planted their modified potato as a unit.

"The leaves looked a bit like pumpkins," said Kale, "And we did get potatoes, but we never got any pumpkins."

While the experiment seemed to be a failure, Cohen later wondered aloud about a seedless kiwi he was eating. His mom explained that some foods don't have seeds because they have been genetically modified. She also told him some types of modified seed sprout and make grain that won't grow again because they have a suicide gene designed by big companies to die instead of grow.

"That's the worst thing they can do mom," said Cohen. "People have to grow their own food."

Baker Creek Heirloom seed from Missouri agrees with Cohen. The company has produces a 355 page Whole Seed Catalogue annually including hundreds of non-GMO seed and articles packed with anti-GMO commentary.

"Every year, more GMO foods, like squash, reach American grocery stores," said Baker Creek. "Most other developed countries have banned or labeled these foods because many scientists feel they may be creating human and environmental health problems."

Ontario-based William Dam Seed also does not sell GMOS. In fact, since the 1960s, it hasn't sold chemically treated seed either. West Coast Seed puts it right on the catalogue cover: "Untreated seeds for organic growing, non-GMO."

A trip to Europe in 2014 surprised me. I have been sensitive to gluten since 2012, but suddenly I was eating bread and croissants and pasta without consequence. Is it possible I am sensitive to the GMO wheat grown here in North America? I have been tested and I am not celiac, but I am certainly sensitive to bread and flour sold here. Europe is GMO free.

If your concern about the quality of food sold around the world has triggered your decision to grow your own food, you don't want to accidentally grow squash or corn or beans from GMO sources.

So as you settle in by the fire at Starbucks with catalogues online or in print, check out the seed company's GMO policy before you buy. A hybrid seed is not the same as a genetically modified seed.

Who's afraid of the GMO? I am.

Donna Balzer is an enthusiastic gardener and entertaining speaker. Sign up for her blog feeds at or follow her on Twitter @NoGuffGardener.

Tagged: Calgary Real Estate News | Donna Balzer | Gardening | gardens | YYCRE

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