Are GMO seeds available for purchase?

We recently had a question sent to us about GMO seeds – whether they were being foisted upon us at the store. The simple answer is no. You can’t just go to the garden center and buy genetically modified seeds of any plant, they’re not available yet. I suppose, theoretically, you could call yourself a farmer and purchase genetically modified corn or soybeans, but the corn isn’t sweet corn (for the most part), and soybeans – who grows those besides farmers? You could ask a farmer friend to get you genetically modified alfalfa or sugar beets, but why? Are you really going to broadcast roundup across your garden? And it wouldn’t be legal for the farmers to give (or sell) it to you anyway.

It is worth noting that in the near future there may be grass seed that is genetically modified to resist Round-up, but it isn’t available yet (I’m not a person fundamentally opposed to genetic engineering – but I am opposed to Round-up ready grasses).

So, as a consumer, what can you buy that’s genetically modified? Not seed. Just the plants or plant parts that grow from the seed. Corn chips and processed foods. High fructose corn syrup, that kind of stuff. Also, you can buy carnations genetically modified to be blue – called ‘Moondust’. Most of the cheese we eat has been made with fungi genetically engineered to produce rennet. In terms of meat – it’s not available yet, but we’re getting close, especially with salmon.

Podcasting returns! Season 3 begins

It’s spring…flowers are emerging and so are the podcasts. Here’s the first of our eight episodes for the season.  The theme this week is “Spring Cleaning” and it’s the wide world of weeds.  The podcasts are now hosted on i-Tunes, so I can follow you anywhere you go.  Just sayin’.

I’m trying to get some listener questions “on air” as it were, so if you have a burning desire to be on a podcast with me, just drop an email to and let me know.

Something sure to get your goat

Last August I posted some photos from a field tour in Austria where we saw an organic Christmas tree farm that used Shropshire sheep as their principle form of weed control.  The particular breed of sheep is suited to the task since they will graze on grass and weeds but not on conifers.  Since then I have shared the pictures elsewhere and found out the Shropshire sheep are also employed in the U.S. and the U.K. for similar purposes.  Recently, I have had several people share websites for a service known as ‘Rent-a-Ruminant’.  As with the Shropshire sheep, these services use grazers to control vegetation, but instead of sheep these companies use goats. 

Unlike sheep, goats are much less selective grazers; so call these guys in when you’re in need of land-clearing or invasive species removal.  I have seen Rent-a-Rumant advertised in the Pacific Northwest and in Australia so clearly this is a widespread idea.   And, I suppose, an example of an old idea that’s new again.  As many GP blog readers probably know, I have issues with the ethics (not to mention efficacy) of exploiting grade-school children to pull garlic mustard or purple loosestrife in the name of invasive species control.  But using goats to control invasives?  That might be a solution everyone can get behind

Not baaaad work if you can get.  Rental ruminants chomping on English ivy in the Northwest. (Just for you, Linda)