Backyard Gardening: Grow Indigenous Corn!

Backyard Gardening: Grow Indigenous Corn!

Nina Callaway
Mar 26, 2008

While scientists and food economists aren't all in agreement, there is a growing concern about the dangers of genetically engineered plants or GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Whether it's simply worries about the ability of multinational corporations to control the food supply, or studies that show GMO crops might have harmful effects on other species, the bottom line is that scientists don't know yet what the long-term impact of such crops might be.

So when Mexican farmers discovered that their indigenous corn was being contaminated by GMO corn, they set out to do something about it.

Mexico is one of a number of countries to ban GMO crops, and many farmers still grow a strain of the ancient corn their ancestors first domesticated 8000 years ago. But thanks to US GMO corn brought into the country for food, rather than planting, that ancient corn is in danger.

If you've got 180 square feet, you can plant this beautiful variegated corn, helping to preserve its genetic heritage. The corn itself is free, but they ask for a $7 to $20 donation to help them purchase field testing kits and further study. The program is run through Schools for Chiapas, whose schools work to preserve indigenous culture and language.

Living in a Brooklyn apartment, we can only dream of being able to pick ears of this plump heirloom-variety corn. Having had American heirloom varieties, we imagine that it is full of flavor, and that flavor varies from plant to plant. But the Chiapas farmers even suggest using the seed in a planter box as a decorative plant.

And if growing corn sounds a little advanced for you, perhaps start with growing alfalfa sprouts, and move up to bigger crops from there!

See more recent news on the discussion and debate over GMO crops here:

France Says "Non!" to Genetically Modified Food

More info about the corn program:
Schools for Chiapas GMO-free corn

Image: Schools for Chiapas

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