A farmer holds soybeans from the previous season’s crop at his farm in southern Minnesota. Most soy grown in the U.S. are conventional, herbicide-tolerant GMOs. Though regulators say GMOs are safe, health and environmental worries have persisted and companies will soon have to disclose when products have ‘bioengineered’ ingredients. (File photo by The Associated Press)

A farmer holds soybeans from the previous season’s crop at his farm in southern Minnesota. Most soy grown in the U.S. are conventional, herbicide-tolerant GMOs. Though regulators say GMOs are safe, health and environmental worries have persisted and companies will soon have to disclose when products have ‘bioengineered’ ingredients. (File photo by The Associated Press)

Gardening: Learn all about GMO, GE in Canada

When the term GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) first became part of people’s vocabulary it alluded to scientists altering genes of both plants and animals to get desired traits. The incorrect definition spread due to public interest groups pushing back against modified organisms. People with no idea of what a GMO product was, were anti-GMO.

Public backlash against GMO went so far that some garden centres felt compelled to note on the back of their bedding-out tag, that their products were GMO free. Seed companies placed it on their packages or their seed stands. Why? To counter the suggestion that there is something wrong with their product.

Misinformation on what does and doesn’t constitute GMO abounds. The definition of Genetically Modified Organism, falls under BioTechnology. BioTechnology covers everything from the traditional breeding programs; selective breeding, conventional breeding as well as genetically engineering. In other words, all food, unless harvested in the wild fall under the classification of GMO.

When people save seed for the next year, they save seeds from the plants with the best tasting produce, which is selective breeding.

Conventional breeding is where males and females are selected for specific traits and placed together. Scientists do it to get better tasting tomatoes and farmers do it to get better quality animals. It has been done to create new plants and new breeds of animals. All are considered to be a Genetically Modified Organism.

Modern biotechnology includes genetic engineering, fusion and fermentation methods. Genetic Engineering (GE) is where a gene has either been added, removed or their sequence changed within an organism.

Transgenic organisms have a gene added. The gene added is often one that will make the organism more resistant to specific insects or diseases.

Mutagenesis organisms do not have any genes added or removed, the order of the genes are changed. The changes can be passed down to its offspring.

In Genetic Engineering, the structure of an organism’s DNA is changed either through a cut and paste method where new genes are added or removed.

While cut and paste is also used for plants, change in the DNA is also made possible with the use of a particle gun. The new desired DNA is loaded on small metal particles that are then fired into the plant cells where they will be incorporated.

Seeds that have been Genetically Engineered can be bought through some seed houses but it isn’t the norm. The companies that sell GE seeds are upfront listing them as BioTech and the description contains information on the plant’s enhancement. Expect to pay more for GE seeds.

For those that are interested in looking deeper into GMO, GE in Canada, Canada Food Inspection Agency has pages of information. They list every Genetically Engineered food that is available in Canada and the modification.

Go online at: inspection.canada.ca/plant-varieties/plants-with-novel-traits/general-public/overview/eng/1337827503752/1337827590597

What does this mean to the home grower? All the seeds that are available are GMO. A few varieties of GE seeds are available but they are not readily available.

Buy, plant and enjoy.

Linda Tomlinson has gardened in Central Alberta for over 30 Years. She can be reached at your_garden@hotmail.com.