F1 hybrids: problems and alternatives

It is often written in seed packets found in nurseries » F1 HYBRID “, this mention indicates that these plants are obtained thanks to a long work of selection by companies that have the necessary tools and skills to market new varieties. They are also sold as advantageous because they can bear many beautiful fruits.

In the Orto Da Coltivare you can already find an article on the subject of F1 hybrid varieties, in which we explain what it is, below we go deeper into the subject, highlighting better where the deception lies.

The objective is not to demonize the varieties thus selected, but to become aware of what this mode of selection implies.

Contents [Ocultar]

  • Derivative issues

  • The 3 problems of commercial selection

    • An exclusively commercial selection criterion

    • A more fragile environment

    • The use of petroleum energy

  • Possible alternatives to hybrids

Derivative issues

The problem with F1 hybrids is that they are plants completely dependent on man : They are able to produce aesthetic and abundant fruits as long as a lot of external resources and a lot of labor are used to cultivate them.

This work with a view to professional agriculture is carried out with motorized machines, which are therefore inexpensive, but from an environmental point of view the price to be paid is increased use of petroleum-derived energy .

Some will say that the fact of needing so many external inputs is not a problem in itself, but in fact the use of industrial varieties has indirectly induced other problems: loss of biodiversity, consumption of soil, contamination of soil, water… All of this has economic consequences. , social and cultural on which I will not dwell.

The 3 problems of commercial selection

Plant breeding is not necessarily bad, as long as the farmers were doing it locally there would be no problem for their livelihood. Let’s see why the current selection of the laboratory brings problems .

An exclusively commercial selection criterion

The criterion for selecting varieties today is purely commercial: the plants must produce beautiful fruits in large quantities . They must also be plants suitable for farming with machinery For example, they must have a standard height, and the fruits must ripen all together, they must be suitable for storage, transportation.

To simplify, the selection process is as follows: the desired traits are sought individually in different lines of the plant. Once the plant that produces a lot and the plant with beautiful fruits have been obtained, we cross them until we obtain the plant that presents both characteristics at the same time. Hence the name “F1 hybrid”, a first generation variety.

As already mentioned, the characters are selected according to commercial criteria. If the plant with good fruit is weak and tends to get sick, or if the plant that bears a lot of fruit bears too much and tends not to ripen, what is the solution? We give a lot of fertilizer and use pesticides. Not only is this not a problem, but it is an opportunity for companies: so that they can also sell these products! This is what is meant by commercial criteria. The consumer will feel like they’ve made a deal.

A more fragile environment

Another problem is the spread . The F1 hybrids seemed convenient, partly because the plants weren’t as diseased to begin with, partly because the soil was more fertile. As they spread, their plagues multiplied , while pesticides began to lose their effectiveness (pests adapted). The concept “in a field of cabbage there should be only cabbage” has weakened the environment and the soils are beginning to deplete . Industrial agriculture believed for many years that to fertilize the soil it was enough to put the necessary chemical compounds in it. In fact it is not like that. Soil needs life to be fertile: interactions between plants, micro-organisms, insects, earthworms, fungi, as we have seen with ME and mycorrhizae. The more life and diversity there is in a soil, the more stable and resistant it will be over time and therefore able to withstand the unexpected. Diversity is the only real wealth. Biodiversity must also be guaranteed in the soil by diversifying crops and, why not, by leaving wild spaces for spontaneous vegetation. These focal points of organic farming do not mesh well with the logic of industrial agriculture, in which F1 seed varieties are modeled.

Energy use of oil

Oil availability is another issue. Factory farming would be totally inconvenient if there was no oil , which essentially guarantees a lot of energy at a low price. Vandana Shiva, in her book “Soil Not Oil”, points out that industrial agriculture is not efficient at all: “it uses 10 kilocalories from external inputs to produce 1 kilocalorie of food. However, in an ecological system, we can use 1 kcal to produce 10 kcal of food! We need to redefine efficiency and productivity in agriculture.” This is economically beneficial for producers, but it does not mean efficiency. Oil is the basis of mechanical work in the fields , the production of fertilizers and pesticides and the distribution of goods over long distances. Without oil, we would be forced to practice slower agriculture.

With these three points, I tried to get to the root of the problem with the F1 Hybrid. GMOs further amplify these factors.

Possible alternatives to hybrids

Return to a more ecological, slower and local agriculture It can be the solution to many problems. When farmers selected seeds, their criterion was to favor plants that required the least amount of labor. This is a very good criterion! And that’s not all: the selection work itself has often been done simply by nature. do as little as possible this means that many things that concern us today were taken over by nature: like fertilizers, pest control, planting. Paul Faulkner, a well-known soil conservationist, speaking of large-area tillage, said: ” we created problems just for the dubious sake of solving them “.

Until a century ago there were hundreds of varieties cabbages, tomatoes, pumpkins, … Each territory had developed varieties that grew easily on these lands and the farmers were the attentive guardians of them. Moreover, these varieties constantly evolved with the environment. Yes, because I haven’t told you yet that the F1 hybrids in some cases they are sterile and anyway, due to the nature of the cross, the seeds that come from an F1 plant do not have the characteristics of the mother plant, so the trader also secures the seed market each year and the farmer does not cannot be self-sufficient.

Nowadays, some people have started to be more aware. There are associations all over Italy and around the world that deal with preserve and reproduce old and local seeds in order to guarantee the possibility of returning to natural agriculture in the future.

This is the call: use seeds adapted to your region , if you are a farmer who has come into contact with associations that promote organic and diversified agriculture, you can ask them if they have the right seeds for you! There are many things that can be done about it, here are some associations that deal with it in Italy:

  • Independent seeds.

  • peasant civilization.

  • Semi-rural network.

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