Seed Savvy Quiz

Even if you’re not a gardener, here is a quiz that could change the way you think about seeds forever. And if you are planning a garden, this is must-have information! Find out what you should know about chemically treated seeds, genetically modified seeds, heirlooms seeds, and more.

Making the right decisions about seeds is critical to the future of humanity. It is in the choices where we can find hope. Test your knowledge here:

1. You want to have an organic garden, and you know that seeds treated with pesticides and fungicides such as Thiram or Captan (chemicals shown to cause cancer in lab animals) don’t belong in an organic garden. How can you tell if the seeds you want to buy have been chemically treated?

A. They come in a packet that is clearly marked “chemically treated.”
B. The seeds are dyed a color that is unusual, such as pink.
C. The seeds have a strong chemical odor.
D. All of the above.

Answer: B. By law, chemically treated seeds must be dyed. See Treated Seeds.

2. What about F1 hybrid seeds? Which statement about hybrid seeds is true?

A. An F1 hybrid is the first generation of seeds produced by a cross (hybrid) of two varieties.
B. F1 hybrids have advantages, including robust growth known as “hybrid vigor.” But most are patented, making seed saving technically illegal; the seeds only reproduce using their own pollen (called “selfing”).
C. Many F1 hybrids are bred for looks and to have tough skins that resist damage in shipping at the expense of flavor and nutrition.
D. All of the above.

Answer: D. The supermarket tomato with skin like rawhide and a bland, watery flesh is perhaps the best example of what F1 hybrids leave to be desired.

3. Since there are so many genetically-modified seeds available, you want to know more about them. Which of the following statements about genetic modification is true?

A. A seed that has been genetically modified has been cross-pollinated with other varieties of the same plant to produce hardier hybrids.
B. Genetic modification means the DNA of the seed has been changed. It is possible to splice a cold-water fish gene into a tomato plant, for example, to make the tomato resistant to cold.
C. Genetically-modified seeds are always carefully tested for their long-term effects on health and environmental safety.
D. All of the above.

Answer: B. And it is important to note that there is currently no mandatory testing for the use of genetically-engineered crops, and no protection in place protecting the world’s food supply from being contaminated by modified seeds.

Curious about the effects of hybridization and genetically modified seeds on the world food crop? Try these questions:

4. The Irish potato famine, which was responsible for the deaths of millions, was caused by a fungal blight that wiped out the potato crop, which people relied upon for their main food supply. It could have been prevented if:

A. farmers had discovered the blight before it had a widespread effect on the potato crop.
B. farmers had practiced better fertilizing techniques.
C. farmers had grown a variety of potatoes, some of which would have probably been resistant to the disease.
D. All of the above.

Answer: C. The variety of potato grown in Ireland was imported from the Andes and was not resistant to the blight. If farmers had grown a variety of potatoes, some would probably have escaped the disease.

5. How many different varieties of plants make up 90 percent of the world’s food crop?

A. 20,000
B. 2000
C. 200
D. 20

Answer: D. Unbelievable, but true. It’s not hard to see how we could be gearing up for another agricultural disaster if we don’t diversify crop varieties and plant more hardy, heirloom strains that have evolved to thrive in their own bioregions.

6. Which of the following statements about genetically modified foods is false?

A. It has been estimated that upwards of 60 percent of all processed foods contain genetically-engineered ingredients.
B. GM foods may impact human health, leading to higher risk of toxicity, allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, suppressed immune function, and cancer.
C. Long-term effects of genetically-modified crops on environmental and personal health and safety have been adequately studied, and no danger has been shown to exist.
D. All of the statements are false.

Answer: C is false. Our supermarket shelves are loaded with GM ingredients, which are being linked to a growing number of health concerns. And no adequate testing has been done to ensure the long-term safety of GM foods.

7. Genetically modified crops have been linked to:

A. Troublesome behavioral changes in both lab animals and humans that have eaten them.
B. Uncontrolled biological pollution that threatens numerous microbial, plant, and animal species with extinction.
C. Contamination of life forms with possible hazardous genetic material.
D. All of the above.

Answer: D. All the statements are true. Health and behavioral problems have been linked to GM foods. For example, a Dutch experimenter noticed that, besides weighing more, mice fed GM corn “seemed less active while in their cages,” and were “more distressed” than the other mice. “Many were running round and round the basket, scrabbling desperately in the sawdust, and even frantically jumping up the sides.” Barbara Reed Stitt, author of “Food and Behavior,” was able to modify the “rude, obnoxious, and ill-mannered” behavior of students from a school in Appleton, Wisconsin simply by changing their diet. GM foods were taken off the menu.

For more information, see The Center for Food Safety.

So, if I don’t plant chemically treated or genetically modified seeds, what other choices do I have?

8. Heirloom seeds are:

A. hugely diverse (10,000 different types of heirloom apples, for example, compared to the very few hybrid types on the market).
B. extremely valuable open-pollinated genetically diverse seeds that have been passed from generation to generation.
C. available to the home gardener through organizations like Seed Savers Exchange.
D. All of the above.

Answer: D. See Why It Matters to Buy Heirloom Plants and Seeds.

You can contact Seed Savers Exchange here.

By Annie B. Bond


Michele H.
Michele H9 years ago

Wow! I didn't realize I had learned so much since I returned to gardening (made 100 on the test). There are many resources now for organic gardeners. If you live in Texas, I can recommend The Dirt Doctor's website - This website will give you invaluable information on just about everything to do with sustainable gardening.

Maurice G.
Maurice G9 years ago

You can contact Seed Savers Exchange at
The link in the article is broken.