Q: Can you tell me whether or not most of the vegetable seeds sold in stores are genetically modified? I would prefer to grow “natural” vegetables (ones that are still close to their original breed) instead of the new modified ones.
A: It depends on how you define “genetically modified”. Humans have selected plants with bigger fruit or prettier flowers for millennia. Mother Nature wouldn’t have done that – so if you buy seed that claim to be an ‘improved’ variety, one could argue that they have been artificially “modified” to a certain extent by gardeners.
I don’t think that’s what you mean though. You have no doubt heard of the controversy surrounding genetically modified corn plants that kill damaging caterpillars and soybeans that are resistant to herbicides. These modifications seem scary to some folks. Some scientists, though, say that modifying the genes of a plant could produce seeds that contain double the protein of the original plant. Hunger could be lessened in poor countries. Genes could be inserted in a plant to produce life-giving medicines.
I doubt that vegetable seeds from a garden center are genetically modified, in the scientific sense. Some are called F1 hybrids because hybrids typically yield more than un-hybridized plants. Others may have been selected to be resistant to disease, like the “VFN” tomatoes, which are resistant to Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt and root nematodes.
Some seed packets do not claim to be organically produced but others do. I believe you can trust the assertions of the organic vegetable seed producers that their seeds are as close to nature as you can get. Brands like “Seeds of Change” , “Johnny’s Selected Seeds” and “Source of Nature” are commonly found at area garden centers. If you desire heirloom seed, contact the South Carolina Foundation Seed Association.