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The Difference Between Hybridization and Genetic Modification in Food

There seems to be a good deal of confusion between the terms “hybrid” and “genetic modification” (note: genetically modified food is also called “GMO” which stands for genetically modified organism).

I want to clear this up, since there is a HUGE difference between the two.

Hybrids are the result of cross-pollination between two species of plants. For example, peppermint is a naturally occurring hybrid. It is a cross between watermint and spearmint. If cross-pollination between those two species never happened, we would have no peppermint, a universally known flavor.

Seedless fruits, such as watermelon and oranges, are the result of hybridization. Even readily available fruits and vegetables, such as broccolini, tangelos, and pluots are all the result of cross-pollinating two species.

The hybrid phenomenon is natural. You could even say that all fruits and vegetables are hybrids, as they’ve undoubtedly changed over the last few thousand years. Whether we create a hybrid or whether it naturally occurs, the process is perfectly normal. Hybrid fruits and vegetables are safe to consume.

Genetically modified foods are an entirely different story. A genetically modified organism can be any plant, animal or microorganism which has been genetically altered using molecular genetics techniques such as gene cloning and protein engineering. In other words, genetic modification involves the actual altering of the organism at the genetic level.

Genetic modification is used, for example, to add a pesticide into a plant. YES, scientists are implanting pesticides right into our food itself! Sure, it makes the crop much easier to grow for the large corporations that are taking over farming. It results in much greater harvests. But at what cost? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to eat pesticides. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to genetic modification!

GMO is a huge topic, and this brief post barely even skims the surface of the problem. My main concern was clarifying the difference between genetically modified foods and hybrids.

I’m concerned that if people start thinking their seedless oranges are genetically modified, they’ll think GMOs are safe for consumption and are making our lives easier. Neither is true! PLEASE spread the word. Hybrids are NOT GMOs.

One of the best discussions of the difference between hybrids and GMOs I’ve found is at Mark’s Daily Apple. If you’d like more information on this topic, that’s a great place to start.


3 comments… add one
  • I’m a firm believer in labelling GMO food as such – very clearly. Then those of us who can afford to choose, can do so.


  • I enjoyed reading your article. It was put together well and easy to understand. I read Marks Apple afterwards, and although it was funny, it was not as straight forward. Thanks

  • Thank you for the clarification on what a hybrid is as opposed to a GMO. Personally, I’m not fond of the whole GMO approach at all. Seems risky and reckless with our health and for future generations.



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