Yep, the same thing has happened with banannas twice. We have come very close to loosing one of my favorite fruits two times because of virus's and little genetic diversity. -Alan
Just a farmer/gardener with a message board! homegrowngoodness.blogspot.com Average last frost May 10, First Frost October 15'th. Hot and Humid Summers. Full sun plots, rolling hills, plots planted on southern and south western facing slopes. Greenhouses kept at 70 Degrees F.
Post by cannaisseur on Apr 12, 2007 22:01:37 GMT -5
Brook, I hope that when it comes to gmos that it is overblown. I certainly don't know everything, one point being that I thought that any plant could be pollinated by the wind. If that was true, we would all be in big trouble. In regards to corn, I for the most part won't touch it. Here is an article that kind of tells how far along corn has gotten in terms of gmos. Sorry for the hijack.
Genetically Engineered Food Threatens Indigenous People
The survival of indigenous people, within the U.S. and across the globe, is being directly threatened by genetic engineering (GE) of food crops.
In September, 2001, scientists discovered genetically engineered (GE) corn at 15 locations in the state of Oaxaca, deep in southern Mexico, a country that has outlawed the commercial use of all genetically engineered crops. No one knows how it got there.
In the US, genetically engineered corn has been grown commercially since 1996 and 26 percent of all US corn acreage is now genetically engineered. The remote region of Oaxaca where the illegal GE corn was discovered is considered the heartland of corn diversity in the world. Scientists had hoped to keep Oaxaca's rich diversity of corn uncontaminated by GE strains because Oaxaca retains the wealth of genetic varieties developed during 5500 years of indigenous corn cultivation.
Scientists now say that aggressive forms of GE corn, let loose in Oaxaca, may drive native species to extinction, causing the loss of irreplaceable cultivars.
It is unclear whether the GE corn was carried deep into Mexico by birds, or was intentionally spread there by corporations or governments promoting GE crops.
Genetic drift of GE crops to non-GE fields has, in fact, been well documented and even the GE corporations and their regulators in government acknowledge that it is a serious problem.
Now, however, Monsanto, a leading supplier of GE seeds, has cleverly turned the tables on the alleged victims of genetic pollution by suing them for stealing Monsanto's patented genes.
The purpose of patenting seeds is to prevent seed saving -- the ancient indigenous practice of keeping seeds from this year's crop to grow next year's crop. Farmers who purchase GE seeds sign contracts requiring -- under penalty of law -- that they not save seed from one crop to the next.
Thus farmers who employ GE seeds must purchase new seed year after year, making them dependent upon whatever transnational corporation owns the patent. Farmers who can't afford to buy seed each year will simply not be allowed to grow a crop. In free-market societies, such displaced farmers are free to move to a city where they are free to be unemployed.
Today's GE crops can't guarantee that farmers won't save seeds. Corporations intent on preventing seed-saving must hire agents to travel from farm to farm, reporting any unlicensed crops. Such monitoring is expensive.
To avoid the need for monitoring, and to gain 100 percent control over farmers, the GE corporations have developed a new technology -- terminator genes. Terminator genes prevent a crop from reproducing itself unless certain "protector" chemicals are applied to the crop.
Any farmer using terminator seeds must buy the "protector" chemicals each year. As terminator technology spreads around the world, it will end indigenous agriculture, and much biodiversity as well. An estimated 1.4 billion indigenous people currently grow their own crops for subsistence, worldwide. In many instances, their land is being eyed for corporate "development" and GE crop technology offers a legal way to separate indigenous people from their land.
The ETC Group of Winnipeg, Canada, revealed last week that two of the world's largest genetic engineering firms -- DuPont and Syngenta (formerly Astrazeneca) -- during 2001 were awarded new patents on "terminator" seeds, engineered for sterility.
In 1999, Syngenta's (then Astrazeneca's) Research and Development Director claimed that all work on terminator technology had ceased in 1992, but the ETC Group found that the Director was either mistaken or dissembling: Syngenta's latest terminator patent was applied for March 22, 1997 and awarded May 8, 2001.
Despite the grim social consequences that seem likely to follow the widespread adoption of genetically engineered crops, few scientists have questioned the safety of the technology itself. The major GE corporations have insisted for 15 years that their technology is thoroughly understood, reliable, and safe, and government regulators have agreed (or at least remained silent).
Now a new report, released this month, asserts that the scientific theory underpinning the genetic engineering industry is dangerously outdated and wrong.
The new report, by Dr. Barry Commoner of Queens College, City University of New York, says, "The genetically engineered crops now being grown represent a massive uncontrolled experiment whose outcome is inherently unpredictable. The results could be catastrophic," the report says.
The safety assurances of the genetic engineering industry are based on the scientific premise that one gene controls one characteristic. If this is true, then removing a gene from one species and inserting it into a new species will give the new species one new characteristic, no more and no less.
Unfortunately the theory that a single gene controls a single characteristic, while it may have seemed true 40 years ago, is known to be wrong today:
1) Genes are composed of segments of DNA, a long molecule coiled up within each cell's nucleus.
2) The 40-year old theory (developed by Francis Crick, who, with James Watson, discovered DNA in 1953), says that DNA strictly controls the production of RNA which in turn strictly controls the creation of proteins which give rise to specific inherited characteristics.
Because DNA is the same in all creatures, this theory says that a gene will produce a particular protein (and a particular characteristic) no matter what species it finds itself in -- thus making it possible for the genetic engineering corporations to claim that inserting genes from one species to another will not lead to any surprises or dangerous side effects.
3) It was -- of all things -- the Human Genome Project that revealed most starkly that Crick's theory was wrong. There are about 100,000 different proteins in a human and, if Crick were right, there should be 100,000 genes to produce these proteins.
However, the Human Genome Project announced last February that humans have only about 30,000 genes. (See many articles in Science Feb. 16, 2001.) Thus there must be something more than mere genes controlling the development of proteins and the resulting characteristics.
4) Actually, scientists had known for many years (since 1981 in the case of human genes) that after DNA creates RNA, the RNA can split into several parts, giving rise to several different proteins and several different characteristics. This is called "alternative splicing." By 1989 more than 200 scientific papers had been published describing alternative splicing.
5) As cells split and reproduce themselves, their DNA molecule also reproduces itself, but sometimes errors occur in in DNA reproduction. Special proteins repair these errors of reproduction, so genetic inheritance is not simply a matter of genes -- it's a matter of interaction between genes and repair proteins. Will these complex interactions always work reliably and identically when a gene is placed into the entirely new environment of a different species?
6) Proteins function as they do because of two characteristics: they have a specific chemical (molecular) make-up, and they are physically folded into a particular shape. The Crick theory assumes that a particular gene always gives rise to a single protein that is chemically identical and is identically folded. However, scientists now know that proteins get folded in a particular way by the presence of additional "chaperone" proteins. More protein-gene interactions.
7) Furthermore, during the 1980s, in searching for the causes of fatal "mad cow" disease, scientists made the startling discovery that some proteins can reproduce themselves without involving any DNA whatever -- an impossibility according to the Crick theory. These proteins are now called "prions" and, as Dr. Commoner points out, they reveal that processes far removed from the Crick theory are at work in molecular genetics and can give rise to fatal disease.
Thus the basic theory underlying genetic engineering of crops is quite wrong.
Single genes are important, but they do not invariably give rise to a single characteristic in an organism. A gene's action is modified by alternative splicing, by proteins that repair errors in reproduction, and by the chaperones that fold the final protein into its active shape. In nature, such a system works reliably within a species because it has been tested and refined for thousands of years.
But when a single gene is removed from its familiar surroundings and transplanted into an alien species, the new host's system is likely to be "disrupted in unspecified, imprecise, and inherently unpredictable ways," the Commoner report concludes. In practice these disruptions are revealed by the vast number of failures that occur whenever a gene transplant is attempted.
Most ominously, the report points out, Monsanto Corporation acknowledged in 2000 that its genetically modified soybeans contained some extra fragments of a transferred gene. Despite this, the company announced that it expected "no new proteins" to appear in the GE soybeans.
Then during 2001, Belgian researchers announced that the soybean's own DNA had been scrambled during the insertion of the new gene. "The abnormal DNA was large enough to produce a new protein, a potentially harmful protein," Dr. Commoner concludes.
Thus genetically engineered crops threaten not only the agricultural systems and the cultural survival of all indigenous people, but also the food security and safety of all people everywhere.
Coffee? Bananas? Gee. Why don't we go all the way back to the Irish potato famine for examples?
The fact is, the dangers were made apparent much more recently, and much closer to home. Used to be there were, at base, only three commercial corns grown in the U.S. And they were so genetically similar as to make no never mind.
Then, in 1970, a new blight appeared; one to which none of those corns was resistant. Net result: Loss of virtually the entire southern corn crop, and 15% of the total North American corn crop.
The industry's reaction: Excluding GMOs, we now have a total of----are you ready---four varieties. And they are just as genetically similar as the original three.
Now what about frankencorn? Essentially one variety being grown globally. What happens when Mom Nature gets sufficiently pissed, and comes up with something to destroy it? Worldwide famine---disease---destruction.
Do not discount ol' Doc Malthus. He is always waiting in the wings, and he always gets the last laugh.
Cannaisseur, I can't speak for others, but I certainly don't see your post as a hijack. It's right on the point we've been discussing.
One thing to keep in mind is the the Mother never puts all her eggs in one basket. So, while wind pollination is one method She uses, it is not the only one. Indeed, with vegetables it's not even a particularly common one.
Corn and spinach are the wind-pollinated veggies most familiar to us. Note how neither of them is particularly good looking. That's because wind is capricious, and physical beauty has no effect on it.
Some of the other methods:
1. Self-fertilization. Plants with perfect flowers (that is, they possess both male and female reproductive organs) can self-fertilize. This would include such things as tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, etc. Sometimes, because of internal structure or toher reasons, pollination from outside sources is difficult. Example: Beans actually drop their pollin the night before the flower opens. So by the time the pollin is available to pollinators the deed already has been done. Example: Most modern tomatoes have unextruded stiles. As a result, their pollin is not readily available to pollinators. On the other hand, tomatoes with extruded stiles readily cross pollinate. And others in this family also cross in a heartbeat. As I've said elsewhere, peppers are the sluts of the vegetable world, and will cross in you look at them cockeyed. But they do not do it through wind pollination.
2. Insect pollination. Perhaps the most common form of pollination, pollin must be physically transferred by an insect from the male blossom to a female blossom. Bees are, of course, the most common pollinators. But others include flies, wasps, and beetles. Some plants are actually in a synergistic relationship with their pollinators, and only one insect can make the transference. There are plants, for instance, for which only sweat bees are the vector. For most carnivourous plants, flies are the vector. Note how insect pollinated plants (with the exception of some carnivores) always have showy flowers, which act to attract the pollinators. Basically, the plant uses it's flowers to say, "me, me, take me."
Here's my stand, and why I take it. I prefer heirlooms over hybrids any day. First, I like the flavors heirlooms offer, as well as the variations in color, size, shape, etc. Second, I have a hard time pitching my dollar vote to agri-giants like Monsanto, who are so consumed with profit they are willing to abandon moral decency to corner the market (including human testing in Aniston Alabama). Third, I'm in love with the thought of being able to maybe help preserve some of the past. But the real reason, when I'm totally honest with myself, is that I get a kick out of saving heirloom seed. Where some people collect albums or baseball cards, I collect lettuce and tomatoes.
This is a great topic, and everyone has contributed some thoughtful messages. However, even though I don’t necessarily disagree with the basic ideas expressed in certain statements, I have to express some slightly alternative opinions.
With regard to the original post and the idea that we must save germ plasm from several tomato plants to preserve all the genetic material available in that particular line of tomatoes … that’s fine on the face of it. But if one encounters a particular plant that is producing vastly more fruit, better taste, tolerance to insects or diseases, crack resistance, etc. more so than the rest of its contemporaries, it would be wise to keep some of that particular seed separately from the combined batch. By selecting and developing a superior line, a grower may increase his or her chances of success in subsequent trials. Tomato growers traditionally have selected for improvements and should continue to do so.
An example of an “heirloom” tomato resulting from selection is Gulf State Market, found by Walter Richards of Crystal Springs, Mississippi as a single plant in a field of 'Early Detroit' tomatoes in 1917. and later released by D. M. Ferry & Company.
Now … the subject of space constraints come into play for many small gardeners and hobby breeders, and it also is a common practice to run a line of single seed selections for the purpose of developing a line of tomatoes from an original crossed parent whether the cross was intentional or accidental. Many of these single seed selections have resulted in some very interesting, tasty, and visually appealing albeit inbred tomatoes lines.
I suppose at some point in the process of maintaining an inbred tomato line by whatever method of selection, it would be beneficial to backcross the line with plants derived from the same original germ plasm and maintained along with the selected line if space and time allows. In such a case, it might be beneficial to keep detailed records of the characteristics expressed by the sibling lines.
As far as hybrids being portrayed as inherently evil, ethically inferior, or culturally substandard to open pollinated lines … hold the phone! Let’s first consider that every tomato commonly under cultivation today is the result of a hybrid cross whether the original cross was made by man or Nature. As Brook pointed out on Page One of this topic, a century or more ago, tomato breeders referred to any product of a cross as a “hybrid” even after that tomato had become a stabilized line. For example, some think a tomato once known as “Turner’s Hybrid” is the progenitor of the now famous Brandywine.
Other famous open pollinated tomatoes that originated from careful selections and manmade commercial crosses are now considered “heirloom” tomatoes. Consider Globe (Livingston’s Stone x Ponderosa), Marglobe (Marvel x Globe) ... and right on down the line of all the tomatoes bred using Marglobe (long considered the standard).
One old saw that really rubs a nerve with me, even though there is ample evidence that it conveys a good deal of truth, is the tired rant that all hybrids are developed solely to address the shipping, canning, and mass marketing needs, and that, as a result, all hybrids are tasteless, pale, hardballs. Brook was a little more gracious when he opined, “flavor is not one of the selection criteria used. So any time a hybrid does have taste it sneaks in by accident rather than by design.” Now, I beg to differ … there are hybrids that are flavorful and not by accident. Sungold, SunSugar, Golden Gem, and BHN 589 are just four of many that come immediately to mind. The breeders of these tomatoes intentionally incorporated good flavor into their products, and in the case of BHN 589, superior disease tolerance is an intended bonus.
Besides, it would be hard to argue that the breeding and development of hybrid tomatoes has not benefited humanity by a continuous improvement with regard to disease tolerance and productivity especially when one considers how nearly impossible it would be to grow, ship, store, process, and distribute tomato products globally to feed 6 billion people if tomato producers grew only rapidly perishable "heirloom" types.
But for most of us, as hobby gardeners, it is the pure pleasure of gardening. So I suppose whether we enjoy making crosses and growing out subsequent selections, or growing heritage cultivars and saving family heirlooms … sustaining a healthy gene pool and selecting for improvements are worthy pursuits that should be seriously considered and carefully carried out.
Last Edit: Apr 20, 2007 21:39:27 GMT -5 by PapaVic
the pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handle
Very nice write up, Bill. And it demonstrates that, within the framework of this discussion, it isn't a matter of right or wrong. Merely a matter of orientation. If, like me, the orientation is to preserve existing germplasm, you see things one way. If, on the other hand, the orientation is to use that germplasm to create new varieties, you see things differently.
Its like the difference between seed banks and germplasm repositories. They are both saving seed, but there are vast differences in the purpose of that seed saving.
Just to clarify (not for you, but for other readers not versed in these things). In theory, you only need to save seed from one plant of in-bred varieties. Indeed, by definition, you only need save seed from one fruit to preserve the entire genetic make-up. But if our interest is in preserving the original structure, we save seed from 5 plants in case there have been mutations or accidental crosses.
If, on the other hand, our concern is with breeding and improving, then it might not matter if those things have occured.
>Tomato growers traditionally have selected for improvements and should continue to do so.<
Certainly. But methods of doing that have changed. Until Livingston came along, for instance, improvements were sought by choosing seed from the best fruit on a plant. Then Livingston changed the whole face of tomato breeding by showing that improvements are made by selecting from the best plants.
And, of course, there are differences between selecting and breeding by cross-pollination. With the first you are merely reinforcing an existing genetic characteristic. With the later you are creating a new genetic map.
Now, as to hybrids " being portrayed as inherently evil, ethically inferior, or culturally substandard to open pollinated lines", I don't know where you picked that up. Certainly not from my posts. If you had said GMOs, I would cry mea culpa, because frankenfoods are all those things indeed. What I have said, and stand by, is that I won't put a hybrid in the ground, for political reasons rather than horticultural ones. And I stand by that.
Who has the seed controls the feed, as my friend Jeanne Lane says. And you cannot, by defintion, have a sustainable crop if you are dependent on someone else for the seed.
The fact is, as you well know, there are numerous open pollinated tomatoes being bred all the time. Many of them, such as Tom Wagners well known varieties, become very popular and erroniously achieve "heirloom" status. That's the kind of breeding I have no problems with.
"is the tired rant that all hybrids are developed solely to address the shipping, canning, and mass marketing needs, and that, as a result, all hybrids are tasteless, pale, hardballs. "
Again, not quite what has been portrayed. Tomatoes at supermarkets and other commercial outlets are that way, not necessarily because they are hybrids but because they have been through a food distribution system that does not deal with ripe fruit. Even the term "vine ripened" has a legal and political definition, not a horticultural one. The best tasting heirloom in the world, delivered the same way, would be just as tasteless, just as pale, just as much a rock.
Indeed, when home gardeners grow tomatoes for the first time they most often choose a hybrid, because those are the most commonly available plants. And they justifiably rave about the flavor of their home-growns. "You can't get a tomato like that at Kroger," they tell everyone. What they don't realize is that until that moment they had never tasted a ripe tomato before. So certainly it tastes better.
But I do stick to my overall contention about hybrids being developed for that system. If you'd be more comfortable with "primarily bred for," rather than "all bred for," so be it. I have no problems with that. But I think it symptomatic that there are hundreds of hybrid tomatoes, but you can only name a small handful that were intentional bred for flavor. Yet you can't name an OP variety that wasn't bred with flavor as the primary characteristic.
Anyway, if you'd like to continue a discussion on hybrid v. OP, I suggest we open a new thread. There's lots that can be said, on both sides of the issue, that has little to do with genetic vigor per se.
I had one question on the terminator technology. If the pollen spread to a field with plants that do not have the terminator gene would the resulting seed terminate? I could imagine this as a method to destroy small farmers who save their seed for use the next year.
I, also, do not view hybrids as evil. I don't grow them but if it is something good then it should be liberated by people who are willing to stabilize the variety.
It's not what you get to keep in life, it's what you get to give away.
And there are plenty of other open pollinated tomatoes where the specific aim of the breeding program was something other than flavor, for example, heat tolerance, cold tolerance, early fruiting, heavy fruiting, concentrated fruit set, uniform ripening, heavy foliage to prevent sun scald, particular color or degree of color, solid content, interior wall thickness, seed content, leaf shape, growth habit, or any number of other characteristics not necessarily related to flavor.
But I agree with the original premise of the thread ... genetic vigor, broad base genetic preservation, whatever, is beneficial and when one intends such, it is best to collect seeds from a number of individual plants of the same cultivar.
Last Edit: Apr 22, 2007 13:36:24 GMT -5 by PapaVic
the pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handle
I had a question occur to me as I drove home from work today. If beans, peas, and most tomatoes, for example, self-pollinate as a rule, what keeps them from "playing out"? I can understand needing a wide genetic base for outbreeders, but if each flower fertilizes itself, what good does a wide base do? Not to mention, how DOES the plant in question avoid the problems of such a severe case of "incest with oneself"?
It doesn't play out in inbred types, Redbrick, because each flower (and fruit) posseses the complete genetic make=up of the population. So there are no missing genes when fertilization takes place.
But you need to recognize the difference between in-bred and self-pollinating. Beans, for instance, are not in-bred, even though they're self-pollinating. So, in order to keep them from running out, you have to save seed from at least 20 plants to assure capturing the complete genetic make-up of the community.
Tomatoes, on the other hand, are in-bred as well as self-fertile. So all it takes is seed from one plant---indeed, one fruit--- to assure continuation of the community---presuming there has not been either a cross or a mutation.
I'm going to make up some figures, only because I don't know what they are and am too lazy to look them up.
Let's say that vegetables have 24 pair of chromosomes. With in-bred types, like tomatoes, that's all there are to any particular variety: 24 pair. With a particular bean variety, however, there might be, say, 60 chromosomes in the population, meaning numerous possible combinations to make the 24 pair. Our job, as seed savers, is to assure the continuation of all 60.
But how do the beans get the complete makeup from the gene pool if they pollinate themselves right away? Do they rely on a certain amount of insect pollination? Seems like a risky, potentially dead-ending strategy to me.
We talk about "normal" variations within the population. But if beans breed the way we believe, then a case could be made that there are no variations; that each of those differences is an individual variety.
But once you get into taxonmy you learn that it's a question of similarities that count. Everything in a Family shares these characteristics. Everything in the genus shares these, more tightly drawn characteristics. Everything in the species has these shared properties. And ditto for the variety.
Does this sound like much of it is arbitrary? You betcha! But I'm not in charge, and take no blame for the way things are named.
Well, I guess that explains how bean varieties like "Mosteller's Goose Bean" can survive after being grown out from one bean. I think it's Mostellers Goose Bean that was found in the craw of a wild goose. Could easily be mistaken about that one, though...
I think the numbers you outline are fine. I do also cull plants based on size at least once as I pot up. This is mostly true for tomatoes and peppers. but If the chipmonks leave me enough I will also try it for corn.