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Difference between Heritage & Heirloom, Hybrid & GMO Seeds

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Difference between Heritage & Heirloom, Hybrid & GMO Seeds can be easily explained with a dictionary definition.  Heritage & Heirloom can mean much the same thing depending on your point of view.  There is much debate around the these words and their actual meaning.   I find it easier to stick to the dictionary definition. Hybrid & GMO can also be easily explained with a dictionary definition.

Heritage Definition:

  • something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor.
  • property that descends to an heir (like Heirloom)
  • something possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth. 

Essentially the heritage of something is where it comes from or who or what it came from within a specific cultural or regional context.  The geographical region or ethnicity (e.g., Aboriginal, Greek, Vietnamese) where it first originated determines its heritage.  A seed for example may have originated in Mexico and spread to many parts of the globe but its original heritage is still Mexico.    

Heirloom Definition:

  • a piece of property (such as a deed or charter) that descends to the heir as an inseparable part of an inheritance of real property
  • something of special value handed down from one generation to another.
  • a variety of plant that has originated under cultivation and that has survived for several generations usually due to the efforts of private individuals.

Basically, it is a valued possession passed down over many generations within a family or geographical area, often increasing in value as the years go by.  It usually refers to a long period of time that the item existed.  Something that is only 10 years old would not generally be considered an heirloom.  It must have existed for at least one generation to be considered an Heirloom.

So, it stands to reason that an Heirloom seed can be a Heritage seed because of how old it is and where it came from. Whereas a Heritage seed that denotes where it comes from may not always be an Heirloom seed because it has not yet passed the test of time.  Heritage & Heirloom seeds all tend to be open-pollinated seeds.

If you are a backyard grower the terms Heritage & Heirloom are often interchangeable terms, but the seeds are more often the seed of choice due to their quality of flavour, texture, and consistency of type, compared to more recent varieties that have been modified for faster production, disease resistance, or climate resistance that makes them great for farming large quantities but not that good for prized taste and flavour. 

Difference between Hybrid & GMO?

Hybrid Veggies

Hybrid Definitation:

  • a person whose background is a blend of two diverse cultures or traditions
  • an offspring of two animals or plants of different subspecies, breeds, varieties, species, or genera – a hybrid of two roses
  • something heterogeneous in origin or composition COMPOSITEhybrids of complementary DNA and RNA strands
  • something that has two different types of components performing essentially the same function – such as a power plant, vehicle, or electronic circuit.

Hybrid seeds result from the controlled “crossbreeding” of two different, but closely related, plant varieties. The goal is to combine the desirable traits of both parent plants, such as disease resistance or high yield, into the offspring to produce a more resilient plant.

An excellent example of a hybrid plant is the “Scorpio Tomato” developed in Australia by Alistar Inch. I can’t find the year this seed was developed so I can’t say if it can be considered a Heritage seed just yet as it may not have passed the test of time. But I beleive it is considered an Heirloom and a Hybrid.

Hybrids do not replicate true to type in the next generation and have to be produced every year to pass on the characteristics for that season’s crop.  So farmers need to purchase new seeds each year. While hybrids can increase productivity, their dependence on external seed sources can be a drawback.   You can still grow the seeds saved from your crop, but you can’t guarantee the exact same result the following season.

GMO Definitation or Genetically Engineered:

  • the group of applied techniques of genetics and biotechnology used to cut up and join together genetic material and especially DNA from one or more species of organism and to introduce the result into an organism in order to change one or more of its characteristics

We generally refer to things that have been Genetically Engineered as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). Genetically Modified Organisms or seeds (GMO’s) are created through direct manipulation of an organism’s genetic material. This involves introducing genes from the unrelated species into the seed DNA to pass on specific traits, such as resistance to pests, diseases, or herbicides. 

Many people believe Genetically Modified Organisms is not the way forward when it comes to producing food to feed our ever growing population.  And they believe the quality and nutrient density of the plant is so altered that it is not fit for human consumption and may cause problems in the future that we don’t even know about yet.  They also claim it destroys the germ of the original seed so growth of that plant is altered potentially resulting in a sub-standard plant, fruit or veg. 

In the quest for higher yields, pest resistance, climate tolerance etc, farmers and researchers continually seek to change the basic nature of the original seed to suit modern farming applications, environments and even nutritional value, sometimes to the detriment of the original seed.  

GM crops have been widely adopted in commercial agriculture due to their potential for increased productivity and reduced pesticide use. However, the controversy continues to this day, with concerns about their long-term environmental and health effects.

In Conclusion

New technologies like “Crisper” continue to change the face of agriculture today but for the backyard grower many prefer to stick with unengineered old fashioned seed varieties that they know have no harmful effects on human health or the environment

If we all grew heritage and heirloom seeds and saved seeds from our crops we could retain stock levels of these seeds so they are not lost to the ever changing demands of feeding an ever expanding population on our planet.  So try to save seeds whenever you have the time.  It can be a time consuming exercise but satisfying in the end knowing you are doing your bit to save the long term survival of a seed.

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