The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

February 4, 2014

Genetic engineering vs home grown tomatoes

Filed under: Seeds,Vegetables — bob @ 9:35 pm

The last tomato I had in storage finally started to spoil last week. That was a very long time for a tomato to keep without using any kind of special equipment. It was one from my own heirloom strain that I have been keeping for several years now.

This was a great opportunity for me to select for another trait in my tomato line: long term storage.

The fruit looked fine on the outside but, by the time I finally opened it, it was starting to break down inside. The slippery capsules surrounding the seeds had dissolved due to fermentation setting in. A small amount of fermentation is OK when it comes to saving tomato seeds. The alcohol produced helps to preserve the seeds to some extent.

I took my time separating  the seeds from the pulp. After all, it was one gardening related project I could do even though it was snowing outside. I ended up with quite a few sound seeds.

Picking through tomato pulp doesn’t require a lot of concentration. I found my mind wandering a bit and starting thinking about an article about genetic engineering I read in the trade publication Inside Grower. Part of the article talked about the very first genetically engineered tomato variety to reach the market, Flavr Savr.

One thought I had was that I was selecting for genes inside my tomato to get a specific characteristic. The method I used is one that farmers have used for thousands of years. The Flavr Savr biologist’s method was so brand new that it was patented. In their laboratory, they took a short cut by moving pieces of DNA from one tomato variety to another — if you call taking 8 years and twenty million dollars a short cut. I wish I had the budget they had.

The Flavr Savr tomato and it’s technology was eventually sold. The tomato itself has been off the market for many years.

We have several more weeks before tomato seed-starting time arrives.  In the meantime, my seeds are safely in storage waiting to be planted. I’m interested in finding out my seed germination percentage this spring. Next winter I’ll find out how well the storage trait gets passed along to this year’s generation of tomatoes.

The website Retro Report has a video about the Favr Savr. It’s interesting to watch whichever side of the GMO debate you’re on.

Hmm, I wonder if any gardener ever thought to save any seeds from that variety.


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