How to make your vegetable garden

GMO-free
What is a GMO?

Genetically engineered seeds (also called GMOs, Genetically Modified Organisms) mix genes from unrelated organisms -- for example genes from soil bacteria, fish, etc. -- which could not have mixed through normal biological reproduction or conventional breeding.
Two techniques -- ‘gene gun’ and ‘plant cancer’ -- are used to implant a foreign gene from an unrelated organism into the plant. In addition, antibiotic resistance marker genes or viral promoter genes are 2 also added in this process.

1. Start with Safe Seed. Some seedsmen understand the problems and are taking conscious efforts to produce seed which is not tainted with GMOs. Among catalog vendors, chose those who have signed the SAFE SEED PLEDGE. Amateur seed producers who are knowledgeable about preserving heirloom varieties are also excellent resources for Safe Seed to start out with. For a list of Safe Seed sources, see www.SeedFreedomLA.org 2. Recognize the Risks. The seed sold at most warehouse stores and discount stores is likely patented hybrid seed, and may possibly be tainted with GMO genes. Seed that is the most likely to be GMO-tainted includes corn, tomato, soybeans, and 1 summer squash/zucchini. Especially with these plants, choose seed from Safe Seed producers. 3. Caution with your corn! Corn is wind-pollinated. It reproduces by releasing pollen into the air so that its pollen can reach other corn plants, thus its pollen may travel long distances. Corn is a favorite of home gardeners, so it is highly likely that one of your neighbors is growing it. Many home gardeners use seed from risky sources, and much of our American corn supply is currently GMO-tainted. In order to assure Safe Seed from your own corn, you will not only have to begin with Safe Seed, but you will also have to protect your corn silk from accidental pollination. Learn about bagging shoots and hand-pollinating corn in Suzanne Ashworth’s book Seed to Seed. 4. Learn the basics of seed saving. Learn how different vegetable plants reproduce. Learn which plants will cross with each other and which will not, how they share pollen, and how to keep each type of plant isolated from accidental crosses. In this way you will understand how GMO genes can taint our food supply, but more importantly how to stop their spread. 5. Heave the hybrids. Hybrid basically means “mixed.” Hybrids are why it doesn't work to save seed from supermarket tomatoes. A hybrid is a plant which was created by crossing two dissimilar parents, for example a purple-flowered snowpea + a white-flowered snowpea. The offspring of this cross (called F1 hybrids) might look like one parent or the other but they will carry mixed genes from both parents. Offspring from F1 hybrids do not reliably “breed true” -- the next generation (F2) will not necessarily demonstrate the characteristics of its parent. It may look like one of its grandparents, and it will carry mixed-up genes. In some cases

Why are GMOs bad?
Genetically engineered crops can produce adverse health impact on both humans and livestock. The ‘gene gun’ and ‘plant cancer’ techniques are coarse, unrefined processes and no one knows what 3 accidental alterations may result. The foreign gene in the genetically engineered crop might behave differently in contexts other than the one they were taken from. This can give rise to severe allergic 2 reactions. The health implications related to the long-term consumption of genetically engineered foods remains largely unknown. Genetically engineered crops are banned in Europe because they cannot be proven to be safe. (continued)

Seed Freedom LA www.SeedFreedomLA.org

(continued) Genetically engineered crops can contaminate non-GMO varieties through cross-pollination, thereby spreading their unknown side effects into nearby crops. (see corn example at bullet #4) Our entire world food supply is in jeopardy of being tainted with risky, unproven genetic manipulations. Most genetically engineered seeds are developed to partner with certain chemical pesticides and herbicides. The plants are dependent upon the petrochemicals in order to produce the advertised yield. That means that genetically engineered food is likely to carry far more agricultural chemicals. Because these plants are so dependent on petrochemicals, they are extremely vulnerable as we face a post-petroleum future. Additionally, when enormous portions of our worldwide food supply are dependent on a few engineered and corporate-controlled varieties, we have little diversity. Wide diversity is essential in order to survive the erratic weather patterns of climate change. The majority of genetically engineered seeds are produced by private enterprises and thus are patented. The farmer or gardener is forced to buy fresh seeds for every cultivation season, which makes our food supply much more expensive and less resilient. A patent prevents the farmer or gardener from saving and exchanging seeds, therefore undermining our rights to seeds. Patents and other legal structures are steadily handing control of our entire food supply to a few corporate producers. In some parts of the world it is now illegal to save your own seeds -- don’t let it happen here!

(“terminator genes”) there might not be any future generations – the seed may be sterile. In order to get plants which look like that F1 hybrid you liked, you must buy seed anew each season from the people who made the hybrid cross (often a corporation which holds the patent). This can get expensive, plus it does nothing to help preserve our heirloom heritage. 6. Opt for Open-Pollinated. Open-pollinated is the description you’ll see in seed catalogs to describe non-hybrids. Open-pollinated plants have been allowed to reproduce freely and naturally within a field of similar parents. Except for a few rare natural variations, open pollinated plants will breed true. As you begin your adventure into seed saving and plant genetics, you need to start with good material. Heave the hybrids and opt for open-pollinated. 7. Become a seed saver. Our best hope for creating a clean, GMO-free food supply is to preserve the rich, diverse heritage we have in heirloom varieties. Urban home gardeners are ideally situated for this task: in many cases our buildings and niche gardens may help with isolating unique varieties! Choose one vegetable variety you love and decide to become its champion. Learn how to preserve that one, to keep it pure. Gather its unique story, its history, as well. (Warning: seed saving is lots of fun, and once you try it we doubt you’ll stop at just one!) 8. Go public. Spread the word about what you are doing. Help educate people about the tainted food supply and keeping their gardens clean. Get a “GMO-free zone” garden sign, or register your garden as a Seed Sanctuary through www.SeedFreedomLA.org

Seed Freedom LA is a Los Angeles-area coalition inspired by international food activist Vandana Shiva to help preserve our seed heritage. The Seed Freedom LA coalition includes the Seed Library of Los Angeles, the Environmental Change-Makers, Enrich LA, Watts Labor Community Action Committee, and many others.

Handout text compiled by Joanne Poyourow for Seed Freedom LA 1 “Top 10 Genetically Engineered Food Crops” http://www.healthychild.org/livehealthy/checklist/top_ten_genetically_engineered_food_crops/ 2 Vandana Shiva, SeedFreedom.in 3 Bill McDorman, Native Seed/SEARCH

Seed Freedom LA www.SeedFreedomLA.org