When we initially started out, seeds were a big mystery for us. We had no clue as to the different types of seeds out there. The only thing that we were looking out for were 'good quality seeds'. But what does good quality seed really mean? This really depends upon what you are looking for.
Good quality could mean higher yield, or specific characteristics such as sweetness or size of the produce. Each option has consequences that resound both in our ecology, our soils and our food supply chain. Hence, there ensues such a great debate about desi, hybrid and GMO seeds but truly there is really no right or wrong answer.
If you are a grower, you can save seeds from your desi, hybrid or GMO harvest. But beware about patents. GMO seeds are always patented and can be grown only under contractual agreements. If you save GMO seeds outside the contracts, you can be sued for large sums of money.
Seeds can be Heirloom, Open Pollinated, Hybrid and GMOs.
Heirloom Seeds: Heirloom seeds have been in existence for centuries and they haven't been hybridised or cross-pollinated. They have been handed down from farmer to farmer. today these are at great risk of being lost.
Open-pollinated: Open pollinated seeds occur naturally in nature. They are pollinated by insects, butterflies and bees. Open pollinated seeds produce true copies of the parent plant. For ex: If you plant cherry tomatoes and save the seeds, you will get genetically similar cherry tomatoes the next time around.
Hybrid: Hybrid seeds are cross-pollinated seeds. This means that you take two different plants of the same crop (example tomato) and cross pollinate male & female flowers to get specific characteristics. You can use these seeds in your farm, garden or food forest.
GMO: Genetically engineered seeds are also called GMO seeds. GMOs are always created in laboratories. And it involves gene splicing! Typically GMOs are patented. Growing GMO seeds, however, has ecological repercussions that are easily visible when it comes to pest management.
So which seed to buy and grow organically?
So you can buy hybrid and open pollinated seeds. Both these seeds are safe to grow and can be grown organically. However, as I mentioned before, open-pollinated are the best seeds to have. If you plan to save seeds, you may need to start with good quality open-pollinated seeds in the first place.
You can buy open pollinated seeds from organic farmers. Over the last few years, many organic farmers and new age seed companies are offering open-pollinated seeds to growers. Should you decide to buy from them, you can find these companies online. If you also buy seeds locally. Try to find ‘desi’ seeds. These may be either hybrid or open pollinated seeds. Experiment with them to see the results.
Open pollinated seeds are the simplest to save and are the most sturdy. Here's how you can start saving some open pollinated seeds (remember you need to first source these seeds, to even begin to save such seeds).
Hope this posts helps you navigate through your seed selection and seed saving journey as well. Share your thoughts and your learnings with us. We definitely want more discussion around this highly debatable topic and learn from your experience as well.