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We often hear from gardeners wondering if our seed products are ‘GM’ (genetically modified). The short answer is they are not, but we understand that some uncertainty remains. So, we’d love to offer some clarity on this topic by explaining what GM means – at least in the seed business.
Being such a divisive topic, often involving some distrust, it is important that you gather information from independent sources, so that you can build a well-rounded perspective for yourself. Consider whether the groups or individuals you are seeking information from have any legal or professional obligation to 'back up' their claims with evidence or reasoning. Is there any real risk to them if they did get it wrong?
We stand by the information and resources supplied on our own website, but if you are ever in doubt, it makes sense to at least start your research with independent and refereed sources. It is a hot-topic these days, so sadly false and incomplete information is readily available, particularly online.
There are only a small number of GM crops available globally and they are not typically part of a seed range designed for home gardeners. Here is a quick explanation as to the three broad categories often referred to when talking about seeds:
GM Seeds: are those that are produced from Genetically Modified plants that would not occur naturally or without human intervention. As mentioned there are only a handful of 'GM' seed varieties in circulation around the world, these include GM varieties of alfalfa, canola, cotton, maize, papaya, soybean, sugar beets and summer squash. They are not designed, nor intended, for use in home garden situations, and are typically sold at a premium to farmers and commercial growers.
In New Zealand it is currently illegal to import Genetically Modified seed or nursery stock without approval from the Environmental Protection Authority. The Ministry of Primary Industries strictly enforces this regulation at the NZ border, requiring some seed varieties to be tested for proof they do not contain GM genetic material before allowing them to be imported.
Hybrid Seeds: are produced by choosing a plant with desirable features, such as better vigour, yield or disease resistance and breeding or ‘crossing’ it ("birds and the bees", as some would say) with another plant that also has desirable characteristics. Plant breeders have been dramatically improving plants in this way for hundreds of years, although the science behind it really took off during the 20th Century. The resulting plant is commonly referred to as a first generation cross or ‘F1’ - hence you may see Hybrid seed variety names which include 'F1'.
Some gardeners may try to save this hybrid seed, hoping for an identical plant in the following season. However, hybrids rarely remain 'true to type' in the following generations, as the genetic material they contain is randomly rearranged with each new generation, as part of natural sexual reproduction.
Open Pollinated (including ‘Heirloom’) Seeds: are typically varieties which have proven to remain 'true to type' over many generations. This means that collecting seed and replanting in following seasons from these varieties should produce plants with mostly the same characteristics as the generations before. Some of these are called 'Heirloom' varieties, in the sense of being passed down from generation to generation. In a delightful parallel, heirloom varieties are often cherished and passed down through generations of gardeners!
No, they aren’t. Our seed suppliers have advised us that all of the seeds used in our seed packets are produced via conventional methods and are not genetically modified.
If you do have any further questions or uncertainties, please do get in touch! We can certainly discuss further via our various Yates Consumer Advice channels:
For product enquiries call us on 09 636 2800 or 0800 693 297, or write to us at PO Box 1109, Auckland 1140, New Zealand.
Monday, Wednesday & Thursday
8.00am – 4.30pm
Tuesday & Friday
10.30am – 6.30pm
Poisons Information New Zealand, please call 0800 764 766
In an emergency, please call 0800 734 607 (ALL HOURS)
We look forward to hearing from you soon!