Hybrid seeds, GMO (genetically-modified)seeds. most people have the idea that they are the same thing  and the terms are often used interchangeably. Both GMO’s and Hybrid varieties refer to varieties that are developed artificially by cross breeding, however there are some significant differences.Ripe Cornfield at Sunset

Hybrid varieties are developed from same species. Hybridisation consists in cross breeding compatible varieties.   Farmers have been cultivating hybrid varieties since the origins of agriculture. This has been done by selectively cross-pollinating related plants over many generations and eventually creating new plant varieties. By cross pollinating plant varieties it was possible to create plants that were more resistant to certain climate conditions, adapt to soil condition or acquire resistance to predatory insects and so on.

Developing Non hybrid variety using classic plant breeding usually takes 6 to 10 generations. With modern hybridization it is possible to speed up and control the process. Charles Darwin and Mendel discovered a method of controlling crossing that is able to create the desired crop variety in one generation. The result is what is known as the F1 hybrid seeds.

To create the F1 hybrid seed companies grow two parent lines in two different and separated field that together combine to produce the desired effect in the first generation. They are the result of the crossing of two pure lines. The lines need to be genetically stable (they produce the same crop). Each line transmit different characters. These hybrid seeds produce faster bigger and brighter and are as natural and similar to the classical ones. They are result of two related variety of plants.

The only shortcoming is that F1 Hybrid does not reproduce the same traits in the second generation. This means that the seeds used from this type of Hybrid may well be useless. This drawback means that farmers are dependent on seeds producer all the time, which has had devastating effects on subsistence farming that become dependent on seed producers. Unlike hybrids, which are developed naturally GM (genetically modified) also called transgenic, are created artificially in a laboratory using high technology tools such as gene splicing.  A GMO is an organism which contains genes extracted from other different species. This is a phenomenon that never or almost never occurs naturally.  In other words with GM varieties genes are transferred from one kingdom to another such as bacteria or animals with plants.

Genetic modification is designed to improve the commercial value of a certain crop for example by increasing its resistance to diseases, herbicides, plagues or to increase its appearance, nutritional content etc. The result is an organism that often appears identical to its “normal” parent. For example the difference between a strawberry and an anti frost strawberry is that the second one does not freeze to zero temperature because this has genetic properties transmitted from artic fish which prevents freezing.

 The problem is that nobody knows how these new organisms will behave over time. The seeds that are so produced also have intellectual property, this means that  the companies who produce them have rights to sell these varieties. Gmo’s have generated a strong debate since the first genetic plant was produced in 1983. In the Uk the press refers to it as “frankenstein food” or “frankenfood”.

In most European countries campaigners have protested against OGM,s Although there is not enough scientific knowledge  to determine  ecological processes food security is not always guaranteed, many of the risks  that concern transgenic food apply also to risks associated to traditional agriculture.