Organic/Conventional/GMO/Hybrid/Natural Selection- ( Part 1 of 2)



In today's world of food, we are finding more and more controversy.

The first little bit here we will be looking essentially at the seeds and the reproduction, and production aspects. We will call this part, Part A. Under part a, we will look at GMO, Hybrid and Natural selection. This applies to the seed aspect of the controversy. Maybe we could call this the source of the deal. In Part B, we will discuss the Organic and Conventional aspects of this. These 2 terms apply to the method of production. So we are looking at Source and Method. Two different aspects, but all mixed together. In part 2 of the 2 parts, we will have a summary and discussion of this issue with comments. That will be a different posting. 

The seeds can be found in the GMO versions of many plants and in fewer cases, animals.  Some seeds and/or animals came along through the Hybrid seed/breeding aspect and then some seeds and breeds are still pretty much as nature created them. Of course, it can be argued that some of these seeds have evolved, through natural selection.


One of the big controversies is with GMO food. The initials of GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.  Within that name description, we find several applications. But first, we need to define just what that GMO actually is.  To develop a GMO product, the scientists doing this will insert a foreign gene sequence into the DNA of a plant or animal, for example. That gene can come from various sources. They usually do it for some specific purpose. One purpose is to delay riping, another purpose is to.. well the list goes on and on for some specific purpose to serve the needs of whatever crop is chosen to spend the time and expense to do the work to do this process. However, the majority of the modifying is done to serve the needs of herbicide application. In doing this it, in theory, makes the plant resistant to a given type of herbicide that is then used to kill weeds that are normally found in those crop situations. You might be familiar with the Glysophate name. That herbicide is marketed under several names, but the most notable one is Roundup. Many different plants have been modified in this way so as to allow various herbicides to be applied to them to alter or modify the growing conditions for the plants. Mostly this is for weed control. There is another term that is out there that some of you may be familiar with and that is Recombinant DNA.  This is simply a recombing of the DNA sequencing of something. This really is a type of GMO, if you will. But that is not really part of this generalized discussion. I mention this term so that if one was to be familiar with the term, one could place it properly. Usually, the people that label the products are pretty good at identifying this type of a product and some of you may have seen the littler before the capital letters, such as rHGH or rBST.  Anyway, when you apply the herbicide to a GMO plant that has been altered to resist that herbicide, it survives and the natural plants, such as weeds die. Sounds good, doesn't it?  More on that later.

Next on the topic, is Hybrid. By definition, a hybrid is simply a process of cross-breeding of two species but of different variants. But a hybrid and a GMO are definitely not the same things.  The GMO has to be done by man, in a laboratory setting and done by using specific genes from not same species, usually, to make a new type of organism, one that was not created by nature under normal non-human intervention. Then those type of creations is taken to from the laboratory setting to the field for further development and propagation. Essentially a GMO creation cannot take place without man's actually intervening and actually physically making it happen. Man, not nature, initiates the creation. GMO development does not take place in nature by nature.  Hybridization does take place in nature and is done by nature through the natural breeding of a/any given species, rather plant or animal. Many people, some of whom should actually know the difference, will often confuse the GMO and Hybrid as being one and the same and both of those being just a part of the natural selection process. I know it can be confusing, but that is a truthful observation and therein lies the source of the confusion.  What the GMO process essentially does is to physically insert a gene in the DNA sequencing process that could not happen under normal genetic transfer/breeding and then exploit the ability of the plant or animal to transfer the "new" gene on down the normal pathway of development

Whereas a hybrid is created by nature, without man's intervention, we can look at a few examples of those taking place in nature, by nature.  A cow of one breed, shall we say, a Herford, normally a meat purpose breed, rather allowed by man or not, to associate with a bull of another breed, shall we say a Holstein, which is traditionally thought of as a milk producing breed. The Offspring of that union is traditionally viewed as a dual purpose animal. It will produce more milk than the parent Herford breed, but not as much as the parent Holstein breed. Usually, it will produce more or a better quality of meat than the parent Holstein breed, but not as much in both quality and quantity as the parent Herford. Yet they do serve a useful purpose for when a dual purpose animal is called for.  This type of a situation is not a GMO product but simply a hybrid.  Another hybrid situation is the creation of the Peppermint plant. This creation likely took place long before man and was done by 2 mint family/variety plants cross pollinating. Those 2 plants are Field Mint and Spearmint.  Usually, most of the time, a hybrid will be able to reproduce. Whereas most of the time a GMO plant will not be able to reproduce. However, there is a no hard and fast rule to the ability or inability of the GMO or Hybrid creation on the reproduction aspect.  

Natural Selection. This is a term that is loosely applied to the group of seeds or species of animals that have remained the same throughout time or have evolved through a natural selection process to the point of where they are today. Natural selection would include terms like Heirloom varieties that many of you are perhaps more familiar with. Natural Selection and Hybridization has taken place throughout time. Whereas GMO-ization has really only taken place, as generally known, for perhaps under 75 years.

Part B- 

Now up to this point, we have looked at the genetic and reproduction aspect of the whole controversy. Next, we will look at the 2 methods of production. This is where the Conventional and Organic aspects come into play. 
  
Conventional production. Under conventional production, this can apply to both plant and animal, is a method that will employ whatever is necessary to achieve a given outcome for the plant or animal. When I say "whatever" we need to think of terms, of within reason. Within reason takes into consideration cost of production and what is normally accepted in the given production of that plant or animal on a generalized basis. Remember the object is to make the plant live and produce to the fullest possible extent possible. This can include man-made/synthetic, chemicals, fertilizers, additives, medicines, or perhaps any reasonable man manipulated activity. This can and will also include natural products.  Whatever is applied is done with the object to produce a successful crop or animal and then it would extend to activities to preserve the crop or animal product to the point of purchase. It does not mean that every crop or animal is loaded with any or even all of these various man-made products, but it means that they can be, and many times contains at least a few of these products, whereas at times they may be just as natural as any organic produced crop or animal. The real issue here is that a person may not know under what condition the plant or animal was produced under and that can even go so far as the country of origin. The country of origin can be a concern for some people because, with some countries, they will monitor very closely and limit to what extent a man-made product/s or synthetic product/s, can be used on the crops or animals. Then in some countries, the standards are very lax, so lax to the extent that almost anything goes. 

Conventional production can at times be very safe and can have higher production standards that even some of the organic type production standards. The key here is really an unknown area of production for most consumers. So most consumers will simply choose to not use conventionally produced products to the extent that it is possible to do so.  The "unknown" is the deal breaker.  Many people are convinced that any or most of these synthetic or manmade products are perfectly safe and the reason for concern is simply outrageous.  However, many other people are concerned and this group is growing, that these man-made and synthetic products are not safe and therefore they default to the organic type or naturally produced type food products. 

Organic production. Organic production methods will vary by the various perceptions of the term "Organic" when applied to food. Generally, the idea is meant to imply or is actually a form of certification that the food has been produced under conditions where synthetic chemicals and fertilizers have not been applied in the production of the food or in the preservation of the food. This also includes that the food is produced under eco-friendly circumstances, such as safe biodegradable items, such as composted manure. Also, natural products are applied to the production practices of organic operations. Generally, in order to use the organic certification, one must pay a fee to the government and obey the rules and regulations that they have in place and follow their recommended procedures in all aspects of the production cycle. In most 1st. world countries, the organic standards are somewhat similar, except for the United States. Here, they are somewhat more relaxed and would like there to be no organic distinction from the conventional production practices. The official USDA standard or organic production is somewhat a low standard.  There are, the last time I looked, well over 50 different organic certifying organizations in the US. They are all pretty much run by a higher standard than the official USDA organic standard.  However, the only one that has any real legal authority or force of law is the USDA one. The Organic name is owned by the USDA and cannot be used in certain applications, without their permission, when referring to organic food. The others are for purposes of the consumer and the producer relationship.  Whereas the conventional production practices have no real requirement on any certification type basis. About the only requirement they have is to follow the label instructions on whatever product is used on that crop. 
  
As a general rule most organic producers will tend to use methods that some claim will produce a better tasting food product. I guess what you term as tasting good, is a relative term, or a subjective term. On the preservation side, they try not to use any artificial preservative or for that matter any preservative for their products from production to consumer.  There are some real heated debates over which method is safe and the best product. 

I want to bring this part of the discussion to a close. I will discuss in more detail the arguments and issues involved in this whole deal.  As you can see it isn't just a simple perspective and that there are aspects to it all. One must be careful to not mix up the terms, methods, and applications. I will introduce you to some new terms in the part 2 discussion. I will also cover questions like, Is GMO, Organic?  Where does "Wildcrafted" fit in here?  We will also weigh in with opinionated perspectives and rationales. If after reading this and you have more questions, let me know and I will address those in part 2.  
Thank you for your time.

Kent King