As we move into the summer fruit season and enjoy juicy grapes and luscious watermelon (seedless fruits) it’s important to understand the difference between traditional breeding and genetic modification. Just because a watermelon or grape is seedless does not make it a genetically engineered product!
Our Director of Marketing, Simcha Weinstein, who has written about GMO’s both on our blog and through the Organic College, says it well when he writes “Traditional breeding typically occurs within the natural boundaries of nature. For example, tomatoes may cross-pollinate with other tomatoes, but not with rice, or with flounder. Pigs will mate with other pigs, but not with cows. Genetic engineering crosses genes between unrelated species that would never naturally cross-breed in nature. Natural reproduction or breeding can only occur between closely related forms of life.”
This is a very important distinction. Careful breeding of plants to yield desired results, such as small seeds or bigger fruits, has been done since the dawn of agriculture. Seedless oranges and seedless grapes, for example, are the result of cultivating naturally occurring seedless plants. The navel orange is descended from a seedless orange tree found on a plantation in Brazil in the nineteenth century. This tree was a mutation, that is, something in its genetic material had spontaneously changed, resulting in this unique plant. Orange growers propagated new trees from the original navel, so that all the navel oranges available in markets today are descended from that Brazilian tree. This is how plant breeding works.
Genetic Modification, on the other hand, involves taking genes from one species and inserting them into another. For example, genes from an arctic flounder (which obviously are resistant to cold temperatures) may be spliced into a tomato to prevent frost damage, allowing yields later into the season. Organic fruits and vegetables CANNOT be raised using genetic modification! This is yet another benefit of choosing organic. Not all foods are genetically engineered. There is a finite list of these products (click here to view the list on the Non GMO Project website) and it’s well worth knowing what they are. Our parent company, UNFI, is actively engaged in the non GMO project to identify the GMO items in our food chain.
So, it’s almost summer and time for some of the truly best fruit eating of the year. Enjoy the season and eat lots of organic seedless fruit.