The selection of the best varieties has been around since agriculture started. For example, the rustic varieties of wheat, which included only a few grains per ear, became the wheat known to our grandparents, and the salads became tender and crunchy as desired.
The pathological outcome of this selection process is the GMO.
Between the 2, what can we accept? What should we refuse?
The question of the choice of cultivated varieties is complex. Here is an intervention by François Delmond, Germinance and SABD (Syndicat d’Agriculture Bio-Dynamique), followed by a response by Grégoire Delabre. This is just the beginning, there would be many other opinions to collect, information and practices to collect.
The choice of varieties
The problem of choosing organic varieties is not a small problem that organic can continue to evacuate as easily as in the past 20 years, especially in market gardening.
The selection continues tirelessly among seed companies and in research centers such as INRA, CIRAD, etc., with the help of biotechnology and genetic manipulation. The traditional varieties, less and less offered for sale by seed companies and less and less chosen by farmers will disappear and will be inexorably replaced by high-tech varieties under production much more lucrative, for seed companies, in particular in F1 hybrid form . These varieties, more and more handled, will become more and more like GMOs even if, by legal artifice, they do not bear the name.
Is this what we want for the future of organic? Are these the companies we want to endorse with our seed purchases? Will consumers agree?
And do the market gardeners agree to display the list of their breeders and seed suppliers on their sales stand? Are they ready to explain their criteria for choosing varieties to consumers who, for the moment, are carefully kept under-informed of the importance of choosing the varieties in the final quality of the harvested product?
Couldn’t farmers also take into account, from time to time, in the choice of varieties, the food and taste needs of their customers and not only the criteria which suit them and the traders?
Is it normal to find infamous long-life tomatoes with the mention “Demeter” (biodynamic farming) when there are lots of good varieties with which some market gardeners are very satisfied?
It is not because the seed companies and the research centers which support them have practically never made comparative tests on the differences in food and taste value between traditional varieties and high tech varieties, that there are no differences. On the contrary !!!
As for the traditional varieties, they become old-fashioned when you no longer select them. If not, they have as much value, potentially as the others, or even more: will we wait until they have disappeared before we start to select them, to cultivate them?
How does a farmer, making direct sales (and why not expe), make his varietal choice?
– The quality (taste, nutritional, etc.) that interests the consumer, see that he assesses himself. (I work better the varieties of apples that I like!).
– Production characteristics: disease resistance / tolerance, productivity, regularity, climatic aspects, etc.
I believe that these are the two wings that allow the bird to fly. One without the other, we quickly went around in circles.
Personally whether the variety is old or new, it doesn’t matter. I have no nostalgia for archaisms (which does not prevent me from taking care of a conservatory orchard in which I have a good groin of old varieties which cost and do not bring much in financial terms) . The conservation of old varieties is militancy, passion, rarely agriculture.
In apple production today there are more and more new varieties that meet the pre-mentioned quality criteria, and I do not see a lot of old varieties that make the weight. For the few market gardeners I know (all direct sales), the use of old varieties is quite anecdotal for the same reasons.
What would be effectively interesting would be to have a development of fixed varieties, because they would allow a real development of biodiversity from local cultivars, but who can do this work if it is not public research. And it seems rather to take the opposite path.
Market gardeners have far too much work to be able to seriously consider varietal selection (which can be done a lot more easily in field crops). They have enough on their backs, they shouldn’t break it.