Wondering if Heirloom seeds are the best route to avoiding Monstanto GMO seed. As well do any of you have any sites from which I can order and any things to look out for to make sure the seed is legitimate?
Seed companies have done [mostly] one of two things lately:
been bought out by Monsanto
closed ranks against Monsanto and labeled everything they carry as guaranteed non-GMO
The latter companies keep track of the former, and the info is fairly easy to find, particularly through Baker's Creek Heirlooms, which is owned by some of the folks leading the fight against Monsanto.
Hybrids are no worse than heirlooms/open pollinated varieties.
The reason for this is: all heirlooms/open pollinated varieties were once hybrids. What they are is Stabilized hybrids, selected through several generations until the wanted characteristics come through on a consistent basis. A first generation cross, what most people know as 'hybrid' is F1. Parent x Parent=F1 baby. Seed saved from the F1, is F2. Generally, at the F8 generation, the variety is considered stable and can be called open pollinated.
Hybridization has been used for centuries to select for hardiness, flavor, color, and other wanted characteristics.
For instance, did you know that once there were no orange carrots? They were all white or yellow. I believe they didn't appear until the reign of King Henry VIII, and then as a novelty. Obviously a popular novelty.
Some species, like apples, require hybridization to set fruit. Every apple seed is unique. They do not breed true to the parent plant. This is why varieties are propagated by grafting.
The main difference between hybrids and open pollinated varieties is that you can trust that the seed you save from an OP variety will be the same as the parent plant, where with a hybrid you'll get a mixed bag of genetics that may turn out wonderful, horrible, or average.
I get all my seed from other gardeners, either off eBay or locally. I like to encourage the free trade of seed. Five years ago cherry tomatoes were planted on this plot. We get cherry toms all year round and they come up like lawn here. But they get a little more wild as time marches on. They are shorter bushes, more upright and the cherries have become currants with the odd larger fruit. But they are sweeter and tastier than the originals. This year we've added five new varieties to the plot, heirloom large fruit varieties. They've been time planted so hopefully the flowering and fruiting is staggered but invariably some of our wild cherry toms will be in flower at the same time (it's impossible to pull up every plant that self seeds and they flower before they are even a foot high), so it'll be interesting to see what kinds of tomatoes we'll have five years from now.
We have a completely unknown pumpkin that grows here too. It's a cross between and pumpkin and a squash and self seeding like mad. The resulting fruit though are beautiful golden pumpkins that are so sweet you can make desserts from them without adding any sugar at all. The fruits are huge and its a prolific fruiter. Hybrids are just nature doing it's thing. I enjoy watching it in motion.