George Ball, Chairman of the W. Atlee Burpee company, wrote a guest column for the Des Moines Register. In the column he defends hybrids from "greener-than-thou gardeners" who are on a "crusade for heirloom seeds." He labels these unidentified gardeners as "anti-science," describes the history of hybrid plants, labels some NGOs as nouveau imperialists, and generally tries to explain the difference between heirlooms, hybrids and GMOs, (genetically modified organisms) so the average person can understand.
Shots fired? Not really. He never names these "greener-than-thou gardeners" or the NGOs who are giving hybrid plants a bad rap. I see what he did here. As a seller of hybrid seeds Mr. Ball needs to defend his product from what are really unwarranted attacks. I wrote a couple of pro-hybrid seeds post on Chicago Garden last winter because I grew tired of all the anti-hybrid seed talk on the internet I was coming across. There is nothing wrong with hybrid seeds, and like Mr. Ball points out, a lot of the anti-hybrid seed talk is born out of ignorance.
Since he doesn't name names what I didn't come away with was a real understanding of what prompted the guest column. Reading Beyond the Rows (I read Monsanto's blog so you don't have to) I gather that the guest column is an attempt to push back against internet critics of Monsanto's recent donation of hybrid seeds to farmers in Haiti. Which critics exactly? We'll never know. What we do know is that Monsanto sells some of its Seminis line of seeds through Burpee. The cynic in me believes the business connection explains why Mr. Ball is so vague in what could be a delicious gardener flame.
Speaking of delicious if you're looking for seed-saving tips use the Seed Snatcher Search Engine to find tips on harvesting and collecting seeds from your garden. See what I did here?