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GMOs, HYBRIDS AND HEIRLOOMS: THE CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE



Photo Credit: Kolawole Rauf
Many controversies have been going on as to which type of food we should eat. Consumers are clamouring for safe food with no health risk and that its production should be environmentally friendly. Should it be food that is genetically modified or hybrid or of heirloom origin? Is Hybrid GMOs and vice versa? Are breakthroughs in biotechnology evil?
First and foremost, it is important to explain the difference among GMOs, Hybrids and Heirlooms. Heirloom is defined as the first generation seeds that are organic. They are save to eat but with low productivity. E.g. you get 2,000 kg tomatoes on 1 hectare. Moreover, shapes of fruits are uniform, preservation is poor, etc. One can save the seeds from fruits and plant it again.
Also, hybrids are as a result of Cross breeding of heirlooms to achieve a better variety. For example, you cross a tomato plant that has high preservation with one that is sweet and another that has oval shape. So, you get like 60,000 kg of fruits per hectare, sweet fruits, more disease resistance, uniform fruit shape that is attractive. Note that it takes trial and error to achieve a good hybrid variety and it takes more generations which is time consuming but technology has made it possible to achieve it with less stress and in very short period.
Furthermore, GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms (plants or animals) are made in laboratory by cloning. GMOs contain one or more genes from an entirely different species and are genetically altered using molecular genetics such as gene cloning and protein engineering. For example, one can decide to make an orange seed with insulin so that patients who need insulin can eat it without taking insulin tablets any more. More GMOs has high productivity. Another example of a GMO is a field crop such as corn that has pesticide engineered into its genetic makeup to make it resistant to certain pests. But it is a natural pesticide which will never find its way naturally into corn seed. GMO seed varieties retain their original characteristics if saved and replanted, but because GMO seeds are patented by the companies producing them, intellectual property rights restrict using saved seed the next season.
During Global Agropreneur Forum, Gig asked “How can we really know if a variety is hybrid or GM. Some say hybrid is GM, others say no. Dangote has started tomato hybrid seed farming in Kano and all demons in hell were loosed among farmers saying he's bringing cancer and auto immune diseases to Nigeria”
Should a nation continue the low yielding heirloom which is safe but makes farmers to call Government to subsidize because breakeven is difficult?
“One misconception that I have seen is that folks think that hybrids are genetically modified organisms.  This isn’t true; they are developed from many generations of natural breeding that is directed by human hands. The fact of the matter is that there are currently no genetically modified seeds or plants available to the general public. Genetically modified organisms are developed through direct genetic modification in a lab, usually using DNA insertion or deletion.  Currently, you will only find these seeds in commodity crops, such as field corn, soy, cotton, etc.” Alade submitted.
Monsanto one of the biggest seed companies which basically sell GM seeds to farmers are the propagators and patent and right owners of the GMO 'abracadabra'....the issue has been and still a very controversial issue all over the world and the scary part; there is most if not all seed companies (except Monsanto) are very much afraid to buy into the idea. Many are publicly letting the public know they don’t sell GMO seeds and have taken the time to draw out discussions and awareness of the difference between the hybrid seeds and the GMO so local farmers don't get brainwashed, advised discussant.
Furthermore, Gig put forward his submission about GMOs. 
“Though GMO is not hybrid in my opinion. Since cross pollination are done with high-tech in a short period these days, how well can we trust seed producers that they aren't giving out GM seeds instead of Hybrid. Secondly, GM has advantages too in my opinion. It's not 100 percent evil”.
There have been lots of concerns voiced by environmental groups and consumer advocates regarding "GMOs. It is hoped that gardeners and consumers take a responsible approach and search out the facts on this confusing and controversial topic. In another observation, most tomatoes sold in ‘Mile 12’ Lagos brought from the Northern Nigeria are assumed to be hybrid. Hard skin that stands long distance travelling, very low water content, high disease resistance, fruits could be eaten raw or processed as Paste, Ketchup, etc. In comparison with the seeds planted in Southwest, Nigeria. The fruits aren't uniform, you see some big, some small. Friends, I ask myself daily, are these fruits from the north really hybrid or GM?"
"Since there are have been no reported cases of bad incidence from consumption of GMO Products. I think both hybrids and GMOs are still the best options for farmers. But everyone has a choice to go for anyone. But one thing I know for sure, people that are against this new development have consumed GM products unknown to them. Let’s take Soybean  for example, this crop is one of the most researched crops and has many industrial applications. It is used in the production of Soymilk, Animal feeds, Beverages (Milo, Bournvita, Powder milk, etc.) and many other important products. 90% of Soybeans in America are genetically modified. Many of their finished products are found in Nigeria Market. So what are we now saying" observed Ayodele.
“Those tomatoes when fresh are sweet. Right? The taste makes me justify it as hybrid and not GM. Frankly speaking, GM is not 100 percent evil. All is about politics, business and power. GM makers should be honest enough to say this is GM and use it like this. It's like medications for health. Most Drugs are produced in labs. First generation vaccines are made from the bacteria, virus, fungi etc after which producers start cloning it. But in my own opinion, when Monsanto brought out GM, competitors were scared of the breakthrough and launched out their attack. The right thing for Monsanto is to label GM fruits but it is going be real loss and the company might crash because the attack was successful. In my own opinion, Monsanto and other GM makers might not want to tell you that GM is mixed with hybrid. How can you differentiate?'
 So, you can imagine when two different antibiotics are mixed together and you think it's the same." 

Health issues......  Brothers, there might be GM products in Nigeria. That's why we are beginning to record cancer cases here too. It's getting here. And if GM products are not labelled to give usage directives, road to six feet below gets nearer daily” opined ‘Gig’.
“It takes investigative journalism found in books and articles like ‘Seeds of Deception’ exposing industry and Government lies about the safety of the GM foods.” Femi submitted.
In another reaction by Alade, “What GM set out to achieve is only speeding up unnecessarily a process nature already has in place and it’s not for anything but financial gain”.
If Monsanto hadn’t come up with bio-tech, we will still rely on heirlooms but the major thing consumers want is that they should make their product public, i.e. all GM products should be labelled GM.

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