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Why do you think hybrids are "bad"?

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  • Why do you think hybrids are "bad"?

    or do you?

    I am trying to research opinions people have concerning hybrids.

    I just want to know your basic points on why or what you think might be bad concerning their use.

    Please don't refer to other sites to "develop" your opinion just state what you think based upon what you already know, think or have heard in the past.


  • #2
    Hybrids are not bad. But should you save the seeds and plant them out the following year the resulting plants/"fruits" will be different. That is the down side to hybrids. I planted a hybrid squash one year, saved the seeds and grew them out the next year and............. not one was like the original fruit I had saved the seeds from. Most did not even taste good. The shapes were all over the board with only a few anywhere close to the original. It was interesting though.


    • #3
      if I am mixing 2 things for breeding something I want I make hybrids myself,

      if I get hybrid seeds in the store, I want the diversity if the second generations,

      if it is a hybrid that results in a triploid plant, then the next generation seeds are usually sterile and is a plot on the seed companies part to make more money by making sure that people can't save seeds from them and I am annoyed at that and not going to support that kind of business.


      • #4
        Interesting question, oltv. Thanks for posting. I look forward to hearing different responses to this one...


        • #5
          Hybrids are not inherently good or bad. They have benefits and costs just like any other technology.

          They are only used where the genetic phenomenon called "Hybrid Vigor" or heterosis exists. This is when the performance of the hybrid is superior to the performance of both of the parental plants.

          Couple basic facts:

          Hybrids cost more money to buy because they are much more difficult to produce. Most vegetable hybrids are created by hand-pollination with a few exceptions (cucumbers, radishes, & brassica's).

          Hybrids are only used when the cost of producing the hybrid is less than the benefit of the hybrid vigor. For example there is no hybrid beans because from one pollination attempt you only get 3-4 beans. They are also somewhat difficult to do. A hybrid bean would have to produce 1000X the yield of an OP bean to make it worthwhile. In contrast are tons of hybrid cantaloupes on the market because you get 3-400 seeds per each pollination. Generally hybrid cantaloupes produce 30-50% more yield.

          It is true that hybrids do prevent the amateur breeder from recreating the hybrid. This has been a critical point in allowing the seed industry to develop over the years. However commercial breeders commonly use competitors genetics to mix with their own to create a superior hybrid. For patented traits it is common for royalty agreements to be made in the industry. So although the variety is "protected" by the hybridity, the genetics are widely availabe for anyone that has the skill to manipulate it.

          There is an inherent conflict for the entire industry however. The use of hybrids replaces landraces and op varieties. In order for the seed industry to survive they need the landraces and op varieties as genetic resources. Today most seed companies are compiling large inventories of all of the genetics they can. They also support seedbanks around the globe. The need for high quality genetics is such that seed companies sometimes are willing to purchase germplasm from amateur or independent breeders. Is this system sustainable? Probably not in my opinion. However moving away from using hybrids at this point will lead to widespread hunger and malnutrition. We are really that dependent upon the technology for our food.

          As for Triploids (seedless) - The consumer dictates what the farmers grow & the seed companies produce. It's not an evil plot. Triploids are an unnatural state and are very difficult to create and produce. Nature likes diploids, tetraploids, alleoploids, but hates triploids, pentaploids etc. When chromosomes line up they like to have a partner on the other side. This only happens when there is an even number of chromosomes.

          Seedless watermelons are horrible... eat diploids... seriously. Seeded watermelons cost less than $100 per kilogram to produce. Seedless types can cost up to $2,500 per kilogram to produce. Then the miserable seeds don't germinate half the time because the seedcoat absorbs too much water and drowns the embryo.

          Most of the seed companies curse the Japanese professor who developed seedless watermelons Dr. Kihara (1951). I personally think if there was an evil plot with triploids it was in vengeance for WWII by the sadistic Japanese professor.


          • #6
            The V stole much of my fire.

            I don't consider hybrids to be bad, in and of themselves. To the contrary, when disease resistance has been bred in that allows a variety to succeed where many others fail, then the hybrid may appear to be a superior choice. That is one of the reasons so many gardeners continue to use hybrids.

            Well that, and the fact that in many catalogs & garden stores, hybrids are virtually all that is available these days.

            My objection to hybrids is two fold:

            (1) Their promotion by the industry has pushed out many of the open-pollinated varieties that represented decades of public & private breeding programs...often to extinction. To the degree that this displacement was driven by customer demand, I would be forced to shake my head and accept the fickleness of the consumer.

            However, consumer demand is not the driving factor behind the ascendency of hybrids. Customers would be just as accepting if improved vegetable varieties were stabilized into OP versions, something which used to be the main focus of publicly-funded breeding programs in our land grant colleges. The primary drive behind hybrids is profit. Hybrids have to a large extent been forced upon us by the acquisition of seed companies by larger conglomerates, and the subsequent purge of OP varieties in favor of the more lucrative hybrids.

            (2) The fact that hybrid seed can't be saved. As already noted, the products of the second generation seed would be unpredictable, and mostly inferior. This necessitates the continued purchase of seed by the consumer... which is the point. It promotes a dependency of the consumer on the seed supplier. To me, vegetable gardening is an expression of independence, of taking control of at least part of ones food supply. Dependency & independence are mutually exclusive, hence I object to the use of this strategy in the seed industry.

            The use of hybrids has resulted in a loss of diversity, both inadvertently, and intentionally. As a preservationist & member of SSE, I see that as dangerous to the future of our food supply. Fortunately, the heirloom seed industry has flourished in recent years, so the informed gardener now has more choices.


            • #7
              THE V,
              thank you for your point of view,
              you know things that I have never seen before


              • #8
                you can type all that before I can make my short reply...
                I like you points as well,

                as far as hybrid vigour and second generations not growing true,
                open pollinated kinds can do just as well if someone takes the time to make it work,
                just look at kandy corn VS candy Mountain corn.
                and the land race thing was already pointed out...


                • #9
                  no problem spacecase0, whether I'm a credible source or always up in the air on these forums. This is a anonymous open public forum where any dingbat can get on write long and mostly unintelligible rants.

                  Not implying anything... Honestly WI_HO_C

                  I just want to add a little clarifications to a few of your assumptions.

                  Yes the land grant universities started the seed industry as we know it today. They however had no way to distribute their seed to the common grower. So to fill this void hundreds of little seed companies sprung up. Generally the land grant Universities charged royalties on any variety that they created. Back in the 60's and 70's the Universities started getting greedy and charging higher percentage of royalties. At the same time the competition between the seed companies was absolutely cutthroat. 10% margins on the products were common (and still are on OP varieties).

                  Eventually the seed companies got fed up and started up breeding programs of their own. The introduction of hybrids in field crops during this period also had a major influence in the decision to to this. Initially the cost of a breeding program was very little and many companies started programs. Very quickly the competition got fierce and the seed companies started merging and buying out each other. Most breeding programs started up in the late 60's and early 70's.

                  It wasnt' until the 90's that the major fertilizer companies started buying up seed companies. This trend has continued up till today. Out of the top 4 vegetable seed companies in the world, one is owned by Monsanto (2005 purchase), one is owned by Syngenta (90's not sure when), one is owned by Bayer (2006?), and one is owned by a french cooperative of farmers. There are still quite a few of smaller seed companies in the Netherlands, Japan, Israel, and Taiwan that are owned by banks and some are even privately held.

                  So the large conglomerates are a more recent addition to the industry not a driving force behind it. To be bluntly honest the land grant universities were unable to compete with the vegetable seed companies in the end. They could not compete with the focused efforts and quest for profits of the private sector. Isnt' this usually the case though? Universities that do pure research create something like say the computer. Then private companies take over and advance it to such a degree that the universities are left in the dust and all of their funding dry's up. I'm not saying it's right, just the way our system works. If you want to rant against the moon however feel free.

                  Right now land grant Universities are doing tons of work on biotechnology. Give it another 15 years and how much you want to bet there is no money for it in the university system anymore?

                  Another driving force behind the ascension of hybrids is the U.S. consumers demand for cheap food. If you look at the average persons percentage of income in the U.S. for food versus the third world you would be shocked. One of the underlying causes of obesity rates in the U.S. is the cheap prices of food. Do a little research and you'll find that the obesity rate is inversely proportional to the average percentage of income the populatio spends on food. Please don't take my word on this look it up yourself.

                  Hybrids make higher yields at lower cost, which equal cheaper foods. In the U.S. the availability of cheap immigrant labor has made the cost of food even lower than anywhere else in the world. Strangely enough we have the highest obesity rates.

                  For your second point you can recover excellent OP varieties from a hybrid. It just takes lots of numbers and some skill. I'd say about 2,000-4,000 plants per year for 8 planting seasons. For some reason this is beyond the capabilities of most home gardeners. They don't seem to have the land space.

                  Alright that was a wee bit tongue in cheek... I concede point #2.


                  • #10
                    My issue is that most hybrids have been bred for long keeping, shipping, even ripening, uniform fruit shape and color, disease tolerance, compact plants, narrow harvesting window, etc. None of those things are a priority for me. Flavor is.

                    I am not averse to hybrids. I grow Sungold, Sweet Quartz, Momotaro, and Jet Star which are all hybrids with a good flavor (in my experience). I also grow Carmen F1 peppers because of their productivity in my climate.


                    • #11
                      Why do you think hybrids are "bad"?

                      I do not consider hybrids as a bad thing. Most reasons have already been stated - good and bad. As gardeners, I think we need both open pollinateds and hybrids. As has been said, most of us gardeners do not have the space or time to breed our own varieties, so yes, to an extent we become dependent on the seed manufacturers, but it can be worth it. When I buy seeds, I look at what I want to do. Do I want to save seeds and regrow them, or do I want some particular disease resistance, or do I just want to try something new. Sometimes an O.P. variety fits the bill, and sometimes a hybrid fits the bill. This is all said as a 'gardener' as opposed to a 'farmer' who has a lot of other considerations to figure into the equation.


                      • #12
                        Owww! My eye!

                        I heal, to rant again as the One Eyed WI HO C.

                        Thank you for the detailed history, V. Your knowledge of the seed industry is impressive. I found myself re-reading your dissertation, looking for the footnotes.

                        OK, I guess that was snark. Here, let me...

                        One point though:

                        Re-reading my post, I see that I did not state something clearly. My perspective of hybrids is as a gardener, not an agricultural professional (although some of what I stated applies to both). Not sure if the original poster meant to restrict his question to my perception of hybrids in gardening, or to agriculture as a whole... but when I'm asked for my 2 c's, I usually respond with 3 c's. What can I say, I'm a giving person.

                        So the large conglomerates are a more recent addition to the industry not a driving force behind it.
                        I don't dispute your timeline of hybrid development, or of the evolution of the seed trade. My point was not when hybrids were originally developed, or by whom. The large conglomerates may not have been a driving force behind "the industry" until well after the introduction of hybrids. However, they certainly were a driving force in pushing hybrids into their current position of dominance in the seed trade.

                        To be fair, there are many smaller seed houses which also switched over to hybrid, because of the repeat business which hybrids generate. From their point of view, it's a sound business decision.

                        As I stated above, retail consumers (of garden seed) played a role too... for example, I for one find it hard to give up my hybrid sweet corn. I just can't find the combination of traits I desire in an OP variety. For most vegetables, though, there is an OP equivalent that is just as good as a hybrid. SSE sells many of them.

                        There is no doubt that some hybrids stand on their own merits. But many seed buyers (or plant buyers) "chose" hybrids when the field of choice had already been artificially reduced. The resurgence of heirloom seed companies shows that given a choice, many gardeners will choose OP standards or heirlooms over hybrids.

                        There might be more OP varieties if breeders chose to develop stabilized selections instead of hybrids, but I concede that there is less money to be made that way. The variety quickly escapes into the public domain, and sales drop off. I understand the breeder's desire to have a mechanism to protect their often lengthy investment... not much breeding would occur unless successful breeding was rewarded. And any company has the right to make a profit, and its stockholders expect it to.

                        That being said...

                        To an extent, the use of hybrids to produce a captive clientele is no different than tobacco companies increasing nicotine content in their tobacco, or soft drink companies adding caffeine to an ever-increasing percentage of soft drinks. It may be legal, and it may generate repeat business, but it takes advantage of the consumer. At some point you just have to ask... does the customer really want this, or are they just coming back for their fix?

                        Well, I had to interrupt this 3 times, and it's getting late. Got to go howl at the moon. 'Night all.


                        • #13
                          There are very few cultivated vegetables which even remotely resemble their original wild forms. Nearly everything we grow is the result of hybridization with the exceptions being mutants. To not accept today's hybrids is hypocritical when accepting those from yesterday. To those who claim that we must grow only what God intended, I tell them to grow Queen Anne's Lace while I'll grow Nantes!


                          • #14
                            Well I'm not sure I would classify Hybrids as bad. However, I believe in the liberty of individuals to continue to take advantage of resources that have always been historically available to ALL people! I object to the ownership of genetic material that has been provided for all. I also object to all genetic patents! Not to mention, I have found that the trend has been toward a lesser quality of flavor as well as nutrition, sacrificed for earliness, or uniformity, or some other such quality! Instead what we have is food becoming trendy like fashion, based upon a certain vision, such as a perfect red tomato, a perfect red apple, or a perfect yellow ear of corn. In addition, hybridized vegetables tend to lead toward long storage times that also sacrifice for flavor, leading to cardboard tomatoes, and peaches that taste like paste!


                            • #15
                              Without doing any research on hybrids, I think hybrids are not good because they have been modified in some way.