Donna Balzer

Important to read the fine print when purchasing seeds


Last spring, my grandkids, so excited to hear about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), decided to make their own genetically modified food. Cohen, 7, worked with his brother Kale, 9, to develop a plant that would grow potatoes in the ground and pumpkins above ground. They cut a hole in each potato, stuffed a pumpkin seed into the hole and planted their modified potato as a unit.

“The leaves looked a bit like pumpkins,” said Kale, “And we did get potatoes, but we never got any pumpkins.”

While the experiment seemed to be a failure, Cohen later wondered aloud about a seedless kiwi he was eating. His mom explained that some foods don’t have seeds because they have been genetically modified. She also told him some types of modified seed sprout and make grain that won’t grow again because they have a suicide gene designed by big companies to die instead of grow.

“That’s the worst thing they can do mom,” said Cohen. “People have to grow their own food.”

Baker Creek Heirloom seed from Missouri agrees with Cohen. The company has produces a 355 page Whole Seed Catalogue annually including hundreds of non-GMO seed and articles packed with anti-GMO commentary.

“Every year, more GMO foods, like squash, reach American grocery stores,” said Baker Creek. “Most other developed countries have banned or labeled these foods because many scientists feel they may be creating human and environmental health problems.”

Ontario-based William Dam Seed also does not sell GMOS. In fact, since the 1960s, it hasn’t sold chemically treated seed either. West Coast Seed puts it right on the catalogue cover: “Untreated seeds for organic growing, non-GMO.”

A trip to Europe in 2014 surprised me. I have been sensitive to gluten since 2012, but suddenly I was eating bread and croissants and pasta without consequence. Is it possible I am sensitive to the GMO wheat grown here in North America? I have been tested and I am not celiac, but I am certainly sensitive to bread and flour sold here. Europe is GMO free.

If your concern about the quality of food sold around the world has triggered your decision to grow your own food, you don’t want to accidentally grow squash or corn or beans from GMO sources.

So as you settle in by the fire at Starbucks with catalogues online or in print, check out the seed company’s GMO policy before you buy. A hybrid seed is not the same as a genetically modified seed.

Who’s afraid of the GMO? I am.

Donna Balzer is an enthusiastic gardener and entertaining speaker. Sign up for her blog feeds at or follow her on Twitter @NoGuffGardener.


  1. I don’t know how this article is related to real estate but having read it, I was disappointed that it was more emotional than factual. It certainly feeds the fear-mongering that is so prevalent in discussions of GM foods.

    “Indeed, the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe,” the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) said in a 2012 statement.

    “The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: Consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM [genetically modified] crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques,” according to the AAAS.

    Also, consider that GM foods can save millions of lives by bringing the significant benefits of better yields for farmers, reduced energy costs and improved nutrition.

    Certainly, GM foods, along with everything we eat, need to be closely regulated. However, let’s focus on the facts and not let these emotional appeals stop us from solving the real problem: How to provide enough nutritious food to those who are dying for it.

    • Hi Jackie- I do think you are taking this out of context but all this response does make me wonder if you and/or Dr. Downey are on government payroll or working for a company producing GMO’s?

      • Haha, no, I don’t work for a company that creates GMOs. I work for Ag-West Bio, an industry association that promotes bioscience innovation (in the areas of health, agriculture and environment). Not sure what I’m taking “out of context?”

        Dr. Downey is retired from a long and hugely successful career at Agriculture Canada. He is a renowned plant breeder (traditional plant breeding methods, not genetic engineering btw). He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, has received the prestigious Royal Bank Award, Fellow of the Royal Society and Agriculture Institute of Canada, and was inducted into both the Saskatchewan and Canadian Agricultural Halls of Fame. Of course you would know this if you had done some research.


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