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Are hybrids GMO?

Submitted by: terrimcmurray


Expert response from Community Manager

Moderator for

Thursday, 09/05/2019 19:46

A hybrid is a plant that is the result of crossing two species or varieties. Hybridization can happen naturally, but is most often an intentional way to select traits from two plants with the goal of maximizing those in the offspring plant. This process can be part of traditional plant breeding methods, but some hybrids are also GM crops if either one or both parents used in a cross are transgenic plants.

For example, corn is one of the most widely hybridized crops in the world, and farmers have been using hybrid corn varieties for about a century. Using biotechnology, breeders can also add GM traits to well performing hybrid corn varieties.

This response from expert Kevin Folta, explores this process in further detail, explaining the differences between cross breeding, GMO and cross pollination. 

“Nowadays, this is becoming a very common practice, even to take very wide crosses – meaning maybe plants that could have never crossed naturally. Maybe something from a mountainous region that carries a certain disease resistance or cold tolerance trait and cross that with something that comes from maybe a more coastal region that has superior quality food product. Maybe by incorporating these two, by crossing these two and incorporating and mixing all those genes, something favorable may come out. It may be a one-in-a million chance but that one-in-a-million plant could allow significant environmental advantages by being able to grow a plant in different environments and have resistance to that disease, maybe requiring less fungicide or insecticide.”

Farmer Brandon Hunnicutt discusses different types of breeding methods in this answer, including types of traditional breeding.

This video from J&J Acres, a farm in Toomsuba, MS, is a great visual representation of the differences between the labels heirloom, organic, hybrid and GMO:




Also, Melody Hefner at The Reno Gazette-Journal, explains the terms and differences of GMO, hybrid and heirloom in her article here.


We hope this answers your question, if you have any other questions about GMOs or biotechnology, please ask!