Genetic Contamination May Not Mean What You Think It Means

(This post originally appeared on Sustainablog on 8/1/11) In the debate about GMO crops, the “threat of genetic contamination” is often raised as a reason  to reject the technology.  Is this threat real?  Does it justify acts of vandalism?  Could it lead to the “End of Organics“?  Is it actually an over-blown issue?  To answer these questions it is necessary to put this issue in the context of basic plant biology. What We Are Talking About Is Really Just “Plant Sex” “Genetic Contamination” is an emotional term which obscures the fact that the underlying biological process in question is quite

Co-existence isn’t easy

Closed tomato flower by Rupert Brun via Flickr. Imagine that you own a small business selling heirloom seeds. Your most important (and profitable) seeds are from a special open pollinated tomato variety that you painstakingly bred under over the past decade by hand crossing other heirloom varieties and selecting the best of their offspring. These tomatoes are everything a tomato lover dreamed of – the perfect red color, soft yet firm texture, sweet yet flavorful taste, and they have high yields to boot. You’ve carefully transitioned your farm to organic and received your organic certification last year, so your seeds