The Trouble with Turquois: Avoiding Toxic Seeds

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Recently, a well-meaning, neighboring farmer handed me some shimmering, turquoise squash seeds.

"Try these,” my neighbor said, holding the blue seeds in his outstretched hand. “You won’t have any problems with bugs or fungus, and they make A LOT of squash. You don’t need to spray much, either.  I know you’ll like that!”  This neighbor knows me well enough to know I never use poisons on my farm.  In his mind, this was a way around poisons. 

(In case you don’t read all of this…please understand: The story about these seeds is not in some faraway field in California or Chile, but here.  The squash you are buying from larger farms at our Wiregrass area local farm stands, are very likely grown from this type of seed.)

Back to the Story
I examined the shiny blue coating and asked if I could look at the package.  He brought out a large white bag with a green and yellow “Seminis” logo.  The label said, “Destiny III Hybrid Yellow Squash.” Underneath the name was a warning: don’t touch, don’t ingest, don’t get in your eyes, keep away from children and pets, toxic to wildlife and birds, not allowed for sale outside of the U.S.

A quick Google search for Destiny III Hybrid Yellow Squash took me to the Seminis website where I learned even more.  Seminis is owned by Monsanto (creator of Roundup).  And besides the turquoise coating of three fungicides and one insecticide, the Destiny III squash are also bioengineered (read genetically modified) to resist several common diseases.

After a thorough review of available information, here are my three biggest concerns about this seed, and all seeds like these.

(1) Destiny III is a hybrid, and PATENTED (don’t get me started on patented seed!), so you can’t save seed for next year.  Not a problem today perhaps, but perhaps a big problem someday. (Like if we ever need to be able to feed ourselves by saving seeds for the next planting season.)

(2) It’s bioengineered to resist disease – so it’s genetically modified (GMO).  Its DNA is changed by scientists in a laboratory.  We just don’t know how our bodies receive genetically modified plant cells that are changed at the protein level to resist viruses, fungi and bacteria. 

(A little aside: What does DNA do anyway?  DNA specifies the proteins that are made that carry out ALL of the reactions necessary to keep our cells alive; they also digest our food for us, influence how we will respond to infections, and determine what color our eyes, hair and skin will be.  In other words, EVERYTHING.)  Here's a good refresher on DNA.

(3) The seed coating itself is likely something called FarMore® FI400 Cucurbits seed coating. (I have not definitively verified, but this is an informed, researched guess.) This common coating for squashes, pumpkins and cucumbers (cucurbits) contains a new insecticide called “Cruiser 5FS,” along with three fungicides.  “Cruiser” is actually a chemical called thiamethoxam - a broad spectrum insecticide produced by Syngenta – it kills all insects, not just the “bad” insects. In fact, thiamethoxam is a systemic insecticide in the class of NEONICOTINOIDS, which are banned in many countries because this class of insecticides is especially toxic to BEES.

Now – here’s the even more upsetting part: Seminis sells home garden seeds, too.  They won’t be coated with FarMore F1400, so they won’t be blue.  But, many of them ARE GMO – or as Seminis says, “biotech.”  Here’s a list of the home garden seeds Seminis offers.

I will admit, I did not foresee GMOs entering the home garden market so soon. Seminis seeds are sold all over the world, and could be sold under many different brands.

Okay, so even if a few squash grown from this seed are not going to give me cancer or other diseases, I still don’t want to eat this kind of squash. I don’t want to support GMOs and neonicotinoids; and the large scale monoculture agriculture that deploys this kind of patented seed; and the cheap food from the cheap farm labor; and the fact that farm laborers are probably touching this seed and having to breathe dust from large trailers of this seed; and the factories that mix the chemicals to coat this seed; and the communities being taken over all over the world by Monsanto’s patented seed.

So What to Do?

The best source for foods is to grow at least some of it yourself from certified organic seed!  We can help you with our Grow Something! Backyard Garden Training.  The second best is local, sustainable farms, who freely talk about their growing practices.  Third is certified organic produce from smaller grocers, and fourth is certified organic produce from larger grocers. 

Please vote with your dollars.  Please inform yourselves.  Read what these companies put out.  Read what agricultural universities promote regarding herbicides, pesticides, drying down, GMO seeds, and seed coatings.

If you are over 30, you haven't been exposed to this your whole life, but if you have children or grandchildren under the age of 10 - they have been, and there is a growing concern about the effects of these chemicals in our food and our environment.