Hybrid foods are either viewed in a positive or negative light. They cannot naturally occur in nature; humans have to intervene and crossbreed two different plants to yield a hybrid plant. Hybrid foods, however, are not recent news. The ancient Mayans altered plants in order to produce a sustainable and long-lasting crop. Let’s tackle the topic of hybrid plants below.
What Are Hybrids?
Crossing two different varieties of a fruit or vegetable with each other will yield a hybrid produce item. A common hybrid food is the grapefruit, which is a hybrid of a sweet orange and a pomelo, and it was crossbred on plantations in the 18th century. The important thing to understand is that hybrid foods can occur both in nature and on a farm or plantation.
Open pollination happens when an insect, bird, wind, or other natural mechanisms cross-pollinate two different species of plant. There are no restrictions between the flow of pollen, which is why open-pollinated plants are genetically diverse. Open pollination causes a greater variation within plant populations, and this can change with the climate and time of year.
This is a more controlled method of pollinating two different plant varieties or species. Human intervention is necessary for this to happen. It is important to note that a hybrid plant is genetically unstable, meaning that the seeds cannot be re-used after the initial harvest. The hybridized plant will produce a higher and larger yield than the parent varieties because they will have a higher carbohydrate makeup. The nutrients and phytochemicals from the parent varieties are diluted in the hybrid plant.
Corn is probably the most infamous example of a hybrid food, given that new corn hybrids were produced in the 1930s, so that farmers could easily cultivate the crop. The other reason was so that it could grow more easily and be more resistant to insects and drought. Milford Beeghly perfected a breeding technique to obtain hybrid seed corn that grew taller and produced higher amounts of ears. Since the days of Beeghly, corn has transitioned from being a hybrid food to a genetically engineered crop.
GMOs vs. Hybrids:
A hybrid plant is crossbred and is not genetically modified, according to the NonGMO Project. Scientists combine different DNA genes, viruses, and bacteria from different species of plants and animals to create genetically engineered foods, which are typically patented, for example, the Honeycrisp apple. In a genetically engineered plant, the genes have been altered to continually produce specific traits that don’t change when hybrid plants are replanted. GMOs change the genetic makeup of the seed so that the genes from other species and organisms are inside the plant. The seeds also contain chemical pesticides to ward off insects. This is why GMO foods are not the same as hybrid foods. This is also why GMO produce items are available throughout the year.
Having Said All That…
Hybrid foods can become genetically modified and patented, but they do not inherently contain GMOs. Certain hybrid foods contain a lot of essential nutrients and beneficial enzymes, which are better and easier for the body to absorb than synthesized nutrients that are created in a lab and come in pill form. People have the right to be wary of hybrid foods because certain hybrid wheat, for instance, is bred to have triple the gluten. The goal of avoiding this hybrid should be because of the increased gluten percentage, not because it is a hybrid. As a consumer of produce, it is difficult to know if the nutritional content of your hybrid produce is low, medium, or high. Concerning yourself with the location and growing conditions of your produce is the best way to know the nutritional content, and an easier way to know if GMOs were used or if it was an open-pollinated hybrid.
Sometimes we need to step back and analyze the foods for what they are. Were they grown with chemicals? Were concentrated toxins sprayed on the crop? Are there nutritional deficits? These questions need to be answered when it comes to your decision about eating or not eating hybrid foods. We aren’t advocating for them, but we aren’t against them. We are merely telling you to weigh the pros and cons and make your own decision. Be wary of the GMO-laden foods, though!
A Hybrid Food List:
Black Galaxy Tomato
Seedless Citrus Fruit
Several Date Varieties (like Medjool)