Genetic Modification vs. Grafting: a World of Difference!

We’ve had a question on our Facebook page that we thought was a good one, worth exploring further. An Ezra’s fan asked if grafting tomatoes is the same as genetic modification, since GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are often built for increased disease resistance, something our tomatoes boast as well. How is grafting different from genetic modification?


We want to start out by saying that they are very very different! Grafting is a very old horticulture technique that does not change the genetic make-up of the two plants in any way- it just joins them together. It has not been found to be harmful to the plants or to anyone eating them, even after hundreds of years of testing. It is a very safe practice. Genetic modification is a new technology, with lots of unanswered questions about its potential benefits and risks.

Here is how it breaks down:

Grafting is the process of growing two individual plants then fusing them together, once they reach seedling stage. One of the plants (the root stock) is strong and vigorous, bred for disease resistance and increased growth. The other plant (the scion) conveys the characteristics of the final fruit, whether it’s round and sweet or yellow and tangy, etc. The scion is grown for size, color and flavor. When they both reach seedling size, we cut them very precisely and join the two together, matching their vascular systems perfectly so that they can fuse together and grow as one plant. This means that one plant combines a delicious, beautiful variety with the strength and vigor of the root stock. It is a man-made manipulation, it’s true, but it’s no more invasive or intrusive than traditional plant breeding. It is almost universally used in fruit trees and olive trees and we have seen fantastic results in grafted tomato trials all over the world, especially in Japan. You can learn more about our grafting process, and all the advantages it has, by clicking here.

On the other side of the coin, we have genetic modification. GMO technology is done in a high-tech laboratory, where scientists splice actual genes from certain organisms and transfer them to another organism (transmitted through viruses, usually). This is plant manipulation on the molecular level, usually transferring just one gene. Big agricultural companies like Monsanto use GMO technology to infer advantages into their plants. The two biggest advantages currently are resistance to borer insects and to the chemical pesticide Round-up (which, coincidentally Monsanto makes also). The transferred genes are taken from other plants and, occasionally, animals. This is fairly new technology and a lot is still unknown about it. Many people are fearful of it, partly because the risks are unknown for the agricultural landscape and because we don’t know how these spliced genes behave in the human body, once consumed. There are ecological concerns as well as labeling issues (currently, GMO crops are not labeled in the US). This is very controversial technology. Proponents claim that GMOs can help alleviate hunger but studies are still being done to assess the safety and effectiveness of this technology.

Currently, there are no genetically modified tomatoes on the market. While many crops (including wheat, tomatoes, potatoes and others) have been tested, there are only a few GMOs available for sale. The only genetically modified crops currently in the food system are corn, soy, canola and some papayas. No other fresh produce comes from a genetically modified source.

Current organic certification standards dictate that no organic crop can be genetically modified so if you want to avoid GMOs, choose organic products. Our grafted tomatoes are and will always be certified organic and free of any harmful agents. You can learn more about our organic practices and how we graft our tomatoes by clicking here.

We always welcome your questions, concerns and feedback. Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page!

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