|Thursday Tips: Is My Tomato Plant GMO?|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Thursday, 29 March 2012|
One of our Daily Dirt readers, Nona Koivula, Executive Director of the National Garden Bureau, wrote in to clarify the situation. "There are no GMO tomato or any other vegetable plants available to home gardeners," says Koivula. "It is that simple."
A few weeks ago a reader asked me how she could tell if the tomato plants she had just bought were GMO because the label said it was resistant to beetles and a few other insects. Thatís a very good question and one that I discovered is difficult to find an easy answer to. First, letís define a GMO plant. A GMO plant would be one that is grown from GMO seeds, GMO being defined as a plant (or animal) that has been genetically modified. I believe that in the US, by law, these seeds must be dyed a different color to differentiate them from non-GMO seeds, but unless the buyer asks however, how would she know what kind of seeds the plants were grown from?
Second, the answer probably depends on whether the tomato plants were grown for home use or commercial use. The reason this might be significant is that I suspect itís more likely that commercial crops are grown from GMO seeds and vegetable plants grown for consumer gardens are probably at low risk of being GMO. For the record, the most common GMO crops grown in the US include corn, soy, canola, and cotton.
Itís also important to keep in mind the difference between hybridization and GMO. Fruits and vegetables can be cross-bred for color for example but that doesnít mean they are GMO. On the other hand, Iíve heard of tomatoes being ďGMOídĒ for more flavor by adding genes from a basil plant into the tomato plant. These tomatoes are only in the experimental stage. I might be wrong, but to the best of my knowledge there are no GMO tomato seeds in the US--but there are plenty of hybrids.That said, the fact that the label said it was insect resistant makes me wonder. In my mind insect resistant = GMO. However, given the confusion surrounding the issue, I'm not sure.
The only way to know if fruits and vegetables are non-GMO is to buy your seeds from reputable seed companies that do not sell GMO seeds or buy your plants from a trusted source. If anyone has additional insight into this issue, please contact me. Itís an important topic that warrants further discussion.