Sunday, June 10, 2012

Are Avocados GMO?!

A normal (yet large) winter avocado next to a normal sized Hass
I often get asked if there are any genetically modified organism (GMO) avocados.

In short, the answer is NO... not yet (as of June 2012).

Here's the longer answer....

A. GMO means: "genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered organism (GEO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMOs, are organisms that have inserted DNA from a different species. GMOs are the constituents of genetically modified foods." 


B. Avocados - like most agriculture - has been hybrid throughout generations to make the fruit more and more desirable for consumption and for marketing. The "original" avocados found in South America were tiny, had huge pits and not too much flesh. They sometimes had edible skins and often the leaves and bark were edible too - or at least useful as medicines or as a spice/flavoring. You can see a descendant of an original avocado, with a thin edible skin, and it's fresh & dried leaves below.

A "Mexicola" avocado with it's leaves (used like bay leaves)
C. Hybridization is NOT the same as changing a fruit (or animal) at its DNA level. It is also NOT the same as adding or replacing part of the DNA chain from one species to another. Hybrids are from mixing the pollen of one fruit with the pollen of another; in fact - bees do it ALL the time.  Farmers do it on purpose, to (hopefully) create a fruit (or veg) that has the desired characteristics.

D. An example - to make the pit smaller, to make the skin tougher, to make the fruit sweeter or nuttier, etc.  As of today, there are over 1,500 varieties of avocados throughout the world. In California - we have over 500 varieties! The most "common" or well known is the avocado called the "Hass".  (So - just because an avocado is small or HUGE does NOT mean its a GMO... just FYI).  Please visit my website www.AvocadoDiva.com to see and order many of these varities.

E. The Hass was also the first avocado with a patent. 85% of the fruit sold in the USA is a Hass. The Hass is a great avocado for the packing houses and the grocery stores - as it has several characteristics that make it ideal for picking, packing, shipping and display - most notibably that is has a thick (but not too thick), rough skin that turns black as it ripens. Thus the consumer knows its ready to eat AND it can handle the rough conditions of packing, shipping, handling and display.  It is also very tasty. But is it THE best avocado? Not in my opinion ;-)  I do love Hass at the height of it's season (June, July, August) -- but other varieties are more delicious at the height of THEIR seasons (you can visit www.AvocadoDiva.com for more info on that).

F. Finally -- there HAVE been attempts to create a GMO avocado - that would better resist the funguses that cause the most damage to the trees.  Those attempts have not worked out (yet). At the present time, there are NO GMO avocados or avocado trees being sold or marketed. There are FALSE reports on the internet (usually about the Florida variety of avocado - marketed as a "Slim-cado").  The Slim-cado is simply a different variety - huge, bright green and very watery - that has grown in Florida for decades. These types of "watery" avocados are known the world over - and often used in desserts, shakes, and such (e.g. - in the Philippines and Brazil these types are more common).

G. If and when a GMO avocado comes out -- it may be in India (first) -- they seem to be the most interested in the attempts. The scientist who WAS working on it in the USA (in Florida) gave up in 2008.  I have personally talked with 2 of the world's experts on this matter (in May, 2012) - who run the world's largest avocado tree nursery (for commercial - e.g. farms) in the world. They both said there are no GMO trees in production. They said they had hopes in the early 2000s - but have only seen failures -- and went back to the "old fashioned" grafting and hybrid methods and are now happy about that - given all the mixed results and bad publicity and news about GMOs.

I'd love your input and comments! I am personally SO happy that my beloved fruit is (so far) GMO free.  The Avocado Diva (you can follow me on Facebook if you like!).

15 comments:

  1. I agree - this is good news and just ONE more reason to love these little powerhouses! :)

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  2. I have recently notice my avocado don't become brown or black after being exposed to the air, why is this occurring? i purchase organic avocados. i was assuming they were gmo. has anyone else noticed this?

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    1. Organic and freshly picked avocados often don't brown as readily as store bought, non-organic ones. Enjoy that!

      Also -- California avocados are often MUCH fresher than those imported from Mexico or Chili or Peru (which will cause them to brown faster).

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  3. Love the Mexicola avocado. Here in Mexico it is called "Aguacate Criollo".

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  4. I have been trying to grow an avocado tree from pits for months. Could the reason be that they are hybrid. If I should be able to grow one, do you have any tips, sorry I have not looked through the site yet.

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  5. Humbleena - you can read other posts in this blog about growing avocados from pits. We also have a very popular video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zrIuyliJQ0

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  6. trick for avacado grow from.pits at home use the toothpick.method and water to.germinate the pit but the part.most people.dont know is. CHANGE YOUR WATER EVERYDAY!...my father has been.trying for years and never knew why then i researched and found that method out and his pit now has an.embryo sprout

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  7. thank you very much for this informative blog on avocados in various helpful for me on my first time trying slim Cando from Florida, I was wondering why it got slimy and wasn't browning

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  8. I have been purchasing avocados from the local farmer's market and they measure approx 8" + around. They are quire large and it got me wondering if they are natural, hybrid, or in fact might be GMO'd. Do you have any insight on this?

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  9. Dear Rebecca -- in October, large, round avocados are probably Reed variety. There are still no GMO avocados at this date. Almost ALL avocados are hybreds.

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  10. I was wondering...if we got four different varieties to grow, as to have avocados all year around and planted them near one another, will they cross-pollinate given they are flowering at different times of the year? Does cross-pollination between varieties change the fruit over time? Thank you...

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  11. That is a wonderful plan. They will cross pollenate each other and you will get fruit all year round. Some avocados may show signs of being cross pollinated; but it won't be a major problem. I would also plant flowering plants that bees love nearby if you can (e.g. - orange or lemon trees or lavendar).

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  12. If they aren't then why did they start making me sick every time I'd eat them since last year? There has to be a reason why they started doing that all of the sudden.

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