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Heirloom, Hybrid, Organic and GMO Seeds! What's the difference?

Updated on June 22, 2014

Heirloom, Hybrid, Organic and GMO

It's becoming more and more difficult to go to a grocery store and try to figure out which fruit and vegetables are grown organically and without GMO's. Even in places like Whole Foods or Trader Joe's the produce is a mystery and may include GMO produce. The food industry has won (so far) the war against labeling. So the only thing you can do if you really want to know what you are eating is to grow it yourself. But, just buying seeds can often be confusing. There are Heirloom Seeds, Hybrid Seeds, Organic Sees and what about GMO's? What exactly do these things mean when it comes to the seeds you plant in your garden?

Heirloom Seeds

Heirloom Seeds are seeds that have been passed down through the generations, they are also by definition NOT Hybrid, nor GMO and they are all organic as long as YOU don't add pesticides to your garden. They are usually not uniform in appearance, but the flavor is superior to any other kind of vegetable. Also you can save the seeds of heirloom seeds and replant them every year. Moreover, who knows what medical benefit purple carrots, orange tomatoes or blue potatoes possess? Many heirloom seed gardeners wish to preserve these plants because to loose them would mean that they would be lost forever. In my opinion these are the best seeds to plant in your garden although they may require more effort on your part to make sure they grow and avoid disease or pests.

Hybrid Seeds

Hybrid fruit and vegetable seeds are created by artificially crossing two or more varieties of a given plant. Hybrid vegetables, like tomatoes for example are vegetables that have been mixed with other vegetables to produce uniformity in size, taste, longevity and quality. These vegetables were originally grown for consumer consumption. They are easy to pack, ship and sell and they are resistant to disease therefore hybrid vegetable are what most grocery stores sell because of their uniformity and shelf life. However, their flavor sometimes suffer as a result and they are not as easily harvested to use the next year. In other words the seeds may or may not produce crops and if they do the result will usually be disappointing.

Organic Seeds

Organic seeds are a bit of a misnomer. If you plant seeds that are not labeled organic and you don't use pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or chemicals your food will be organic. So, it seems to me, that to buy “organic” seeds would be a waste of money. Just be prepared to wage war with pests and disease using natural means. Also, in order to avoid using pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and chemicals make sure you plant your seeds in good soil. It would be helpful to start composting in order to have natural, organic fertilizer to use in your garden.

GMO Seeds

Because GMO seeds are not labelled there is no way to tell if the seeds you purchase are GMO. The only way to avoid GMO seeds is to purchase Heirloom Seeds because GMO seeds cannot be saved and used again, they will NOT reproduce. So if you want to avoid GMO seeds then I would advise you to always purchase Heirloom seeds.

Where to Buy Heirloom Seeds?

There are many good online stores that where you can purchase Heirloom Seeds. Here are a few:

Seed Savers Exchange: They are a non-profit organization that started in 1975, they have rare varieties that you may not be able to get anywhere else.

Baker Creek: They also have rare heirloom seeds.

Burpee: This may be the most well known company. They sell both heirloom and hybrid seeds but guarantee that all their seeds are GMO free.

Survival Essentials: This is an online seed company that sells non-GMO heirloom bulk seeds. The seeds are packaged in re-closable plastic bags unlike many other companies that sell seeds in paper packaging that cannot be re-closed.

As far as I'm concerned Heirloom seeds are the only way to go. While Heirloom seeds may be a little more work the flavor far exceeds those of hybrid seeds and you never have to worry that you might get GMO's in them. Also, they will pay for themselves in the long run by giving you the seeds back!

I started this article because I was confused at all the different kinds of seeds out there and I was frustrated when trying to purchase healthy fruits and vegetables. I hope this helps you as well because gardening is not only cheaper than purchasing store bought organic produce it is the only way to be sure of what you are eating.

Bon Appetit!

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    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 3 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks "ologsinquito".

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

      Excellent information. Heirloom seeds are clearly the way to go.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 3 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks, me too.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Great post I only buy Heirloom Seeds!

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 3 years ago from Manhattan

      Thank you "Breakfastpop".

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 3 years ago

      Thanks for this clear and concise hub. Voted up, useful, interesting and awesome!

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 3 years ago from West By God

      Good idea.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 3 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks for commenting Lady Guinevere, I changed my article at the end so there is no confusion whatsoever that Heirloom Seeds are the way to go.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 3 years ago from West By God

      Thank you. I just do not want to use those GMO's. Bad, bad, bad.

    • Brie Hoffman profile image

      Brie Hoffman 3 years ago from Manhattan

      No, heirlooms are the might get some seeds from hybrids but they won't be very good.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 3 years ago from West By God

      Thank you for writing this as I am also confused at what I can replant next year from the seeds that I get from this years crops. So you are saying that Hybrids can be replanted for the next years with some seeds saved from this years produce? I need to get this straight.


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