In general we say things like ‘XX these days are.. :-(‘, vegetables these days seem to be a lot different in cultivation.
I was made to realize how I didn’t know anything about vegetables until now…
We probably just simply thought that making sure we had vegetables was good for our health!
Crops have changed a lot since after the war.
The article I’m going to write today may be well known to agriculturally related people, but it’s not commonly known to the general public.
Most of the vegetables we buy from the supermarket are the ‘F1 (first-generation hybrid)’. Also, when you purchase seeds for growing at home from a home improvement store, you’ll see the word ‘F1’ on the product.
What are these F1 type vegetables?
Let’s talk about what the regular (not regular these days though…) and traditional ‘True bred’ are first before talking about F1.
Every year, we take seeds from the crops and use them as ‘the base seeds’, because we have been improving the breed a little bit each time over a long period of time, so the breed will suit each area’s ground and form an established character over a long period of time.
Because the character will be fixed, if they are seeded the following year then of course the same character vegetables can be cultivated again.
The biotic variations will be kept, so there may be some different forms and weights, also the speed of the growth may not all be the same, but they will be flavoursome, firm, tasty and delicious.
However, this ‘true bred’ is not really for circulation in the mass consumption generation, those traditional vegetables decrease and move on to F1 types.
Ok, let’s see what ‘F1 types’ are.
For example, eggplants and tomatoes are self-pollinating vegetables. But then, they will have the same form as the parents, so we couldn’t create a mix of the form we want.
So, they need to be crossed with different kinds.
Making sure that the forms and colours will all be the same, the skin is thick enough not to get ripped when transferred and they are made resistant to certain diseases and crossed with distant kinds and different vegetables.
The first generation (F1) will have a dominance only as part of the mendelian characteristics.
[Reference: Mendel’s laws of inheritance]
By putting a distant kind of pollen on, heterosis takes place, so that the first generation form gets a good dominant character that we are desiring.
However, if handled naturally, then it’d all be self crossed and would create no ideal vegetables, so what we should do is ‘emasculate’.
It literally means to remove the stamen artificially.
And, when pistils are ready to be crossed, put a different kind of stamen on it.
(* There are a few methods of making F1 types, for those field mustards of the mustard family, they make the CO2 in the greenhouse 100 times the regular CO2 amount to confuse the menstruation and cross it using honey bees, which is called self-incompatibility.)
These seeds taken out from F1 type crops cannot be used the following year.
Because if the F1 generation was mixed, the recessive character that was hidden would come out and we couldn’t get the character we wanted.
For that reason, F1 is basically a crop that can only be used once, so farmers have to buy seeds from seeding company the following year.
(* A set of distribution of large seeding companies’ agrichemical, F1 type and genetically engineered crops penetrating farms everywhere in the world. The fear of this having a bad influence because of this worldwide strategy is supposedly considered as a problem in many situations. A growing use of tests has started in Japan too, so we are just waiting for domestic laws to be set up especially for those large seedings companies like Monsanto which targets Japanese agriculture.)
F1 type = bad is not the case
Going back to the talk before,
This F1 type has become popular for various vegetables because it meets the needs for farmers, logistics and normal consumers.
I think it’s correct to think that there’s a common doubt on how F1 is made and this be mentioned later in this article so we shouldn’t deny F1 completely.
It has been matching the consumer’s’ needs of giving consideration to the look so they can ‘line up well’ for putting them into boxes so that the distribution cost decreases, also, they are all shaped and weigh the same so it is easy to price them all.
They can be harvested all at once, so it works well for the farmers to empty the fields so that they can get on to the next crops, for things like that, F1 will let you use your ground efficiently giving it plenty of merit.
Now, what kind of problems does F1 have?
Remember, I mentioned before that they do ‘emasculation’ to remove stamen artificially, that is work which needs a lot of effort.
Even for non-professionals, when you think about doing emasculation for each flower by hand in a large field, you feel overwhelmed, right?
So, what has been used for the problem in recent years is a method called ‘male sterility’.
The term ‘male sterility’ sounds unfamiliar, but functionally it means the failure of pollen by creating a problem with the stamen or another part so it can’t produce pollen.
When putting it in animals, basically it’s male infertility and azoospermia.
Well, this F1 male sterility has been seen as a problem.
This type of flower was found in an onion farm in 1925 in the US.
[The photo above is sourced from ‘Vegetable world of Chu’]http://www.h6.dion.ne.jp/~chusan55/hatena12/51hatena5.htm* It was a great site, but it seems to be closed now.
If there’s a problem with the stamen or another area so we don’t put any pollen on, of course we can save time for doing ‘emasculation’.
So, we thought this would be useful so we repeated the crossing and created male sterility onions that don’t produce pollen.
Because these onions with male sterility don’t pollinate themselves, they’re used as a mother and a different kind is planted nearby as a father, honey bees are used to cross pollinate to create F1 onions that have the character we want.
When these male sterility F1 onions were released for the first time it was in 1944 (the 19th year of the Showa period) in the middle of WWII.
After that, there has been a lot of male sterility in a lot of vegetables and they have all been created as F1 types and have become popular and spread to onions, corn, carrots, spring onions, eggplants, sugar beets, sunflowers, crown daisies, lettuces, green peppers, kidney beans, cauliflowers, broccoli, radishes, cabbages and rice.
It’s nearly at the point where most of the vegetables sold in the market are male sterility F1 types.
(* When it comes to sugar, it reminds me of the sugar cane!, but the actual main ingredient of domestic sugar in Japan is made up of approx. 20% being sugarcane from Okinawa and the 80% being sugar beets planted in Hokkaido.
【 [Hokkaido sugar beet association ‘What are sugar beets?’](Japanese)】
These sugar beets are male sterility F1 types all around the world.
They originated from the only variant sugar beet that was found about 50 years ago by the American plant breeder Owen supposedly, which means that we have been eating its descendants all over the world.
The squeezed juice of sugar beet becomes sugar and the left over fibers are used for ‘connections’ when making instant noodles and are put into soft drinks with a label saying there’s food fiber inside, so they are all used and there are no parts of the sugar beets thrown away.)
Now, the problem is that
turnips with male sterility would have been generic defects and would have been eliminated by natural selection.
We turned it on its head and basically continued increasing genetically defective crops.
Why does male sterility happen?
Well, why does this male sterility happen?
We have found that the genetic defect of mitochondrial raises male sterility these days.
For animals, it has been confirmed that if this mitochondrial genetic mutation was introduced to a mouse, the number of sperm the mouse had would decrease and the moving ability of the sperm would decrease and it would become infertile.
Thousands of mitochondrias are said to exist in each of our cells.
It is necessary that it exists for producing a cell’s energy.
Mitochondria has a different mitochondrial DNA to our genes.
It’s confirmed that this mitochondrial DNA has transmissive materiality and they don’t take the father genes.
It’s always the mother genes that are passed to children.
The male sterility F1 type vegetables are becoming popular quickly, which means basically the vegetables with male sterility mitochondrial DNA are mass produced.
Mitochondrias works for animal, plants as well as bacteria.
There’s no evidence that there’s no influence to human bodies from eating these abnormal vegetables with mitochondrial DNA daily.
The influence on nature also hasn’t been determined yet.
The gene characteristics usually influence lives and ecological systems slowly.
It was a time where a large number of honey bees (apis mellifera) went missing and this became a popular topic of conversation from 2006 to 2007.
This phenomenon was named as ‘Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)’ and has been reported all around the world.
Strangely, they couldn’t find any of those large amounts of dead honey bees and they were just gone.
Research reports submitted just recently show that that may have been because of the mixture of agrichemicals.
[The national geographic news ‘Journal of Experimental Biology’ magazine online on February 7, 2013]
However, it doesn’t mean that the large mysterious disappearance of honey bees was totally solved, so no clear cause has been established.
The honey bees that disappeared all were all honey bees working in massive corn farms and they were used for genetic modification and pollinating the sterile crops.
In the US, one quarter to a third of the breeding honey bees disappeared suddenly, so of course it was very serious.
There must be a huge problem with honey bees that work at modern farms.
The author of ‘Tane ga abunai (seeds are in danger.)’ Isao Noguchi also made a point about the relationship with male sterility.
Those queen bees that have grown by eating honey with male sterility and mitochondrial DNA problems develop more of an over accumulated threshold of abnormal mitochondria every generation, those male bees with no ability to produce sperm were all males, so those working bees may have left the queen and the nest as it had no future and went to find a new nest.
Also, in the other reports, it’s a fact that the number of male sperms are rapidly decreasing.
The scientist and professor in Denmark, Niels Skakkebaek submitted a report saying ‘the number of sperms decreased by half over 50 years.’ in a WHO meeting.
It has been said that the causes are from changes to food life, the influence of the environmental hormones and the change of lifestyle, but these bees who continue to take food with mitochondrial DNA problems must be a big cause as well.
When we think about that, the time when male sterility F1 type started was in the 1940s.
The F1 type became popular with economic growth and the direction of decreasing sperms has been visible, that could be another theory.
That is just a hypothesis, so it is still up in the air, but it is obvious that any negative influence on nature will have an influence on humans too.
We have no idea about the influence on children in the next generation when almost all the vegetables will have abnormal mitochondrial DNA in the future, especially as genetically modified crops are now approved in Japan.
If there are major issues that occur in the future we will not be able to take it back
They are already used in a lot of crops, which means that vegetable juice, soft drinks with sugar and lots of other processed products could have been greatly affected.
We feel that we should be improving the public’s general awareness of vegetables and other foods and choose what to eat and what cultivating methods we use in our generation when raising children. We should review the small and medium sized farms in order to stop the extinction of the ‘true bred’ and make traditional vegetables as well as continuing self pollination as they will be more important in the future.
Rather than consumers following funny directions, we should try and pass truly safe vegetables to our children so we need to keep looking for new and better ways.
Isao Noguchi ‘Why did honey bees leave their hives?’
‘Out for the count: Why levels of sperm in men are falling’ [independent.co.uk]
‘DRUGGED BEES GO MISSING’ [The Journal of Experimental Biology]
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net