If there is something good to come out of the Internet chatter on Monsanto’s donation of hybrid seed to Haiti, then perhaps it is this: More discussion and explanation of the difference between heirloom and hybrid seeds.
George Ball wrote a guest column for the Des Moines Register called “A Juicy Debate: Hybrids vs. Heirlooms.” Ball is a past president of The American Horticultural Society and chairman of the W. Atlee Burpee & Co.–well known for the line of Burpee Seeds sold in big box stores around the country. Fair disclosure: Monsanto sells some of its Seminis brand of hybrid vegetables through Burpee.
Ball explains better than I did the difference between heirlooms and hybrids and fairly credits the benefits and deficiencies of both (taste/ancestry/uniqueness vs. hardiness/yield/also taste) while passing no judgment on gardeners’ choices.
Like a proud father (Ball notes his company does 50/50 business in both hybrid and heirloom), Ball does not allow us to choose one at the detriment of the other. Instead he says “it’s time for gardeners to stop slinging mulch and return to the pleasures and rewards of gardening. There’s plenty of room in the vegetable patch for both heirlooms and hybrids.”
Hybrids and Heirlooms – University of Illinois Extension Service
Hybrids, Heirlooms and Open-Pollinated Crops (includes video) – University of Arkansas