This scary new world of hybridization, grafted grapevine hybrids, and GMOs is barely a generation or two old.  With major concerns about what is unfolding the terms need thoughtful redefining.   In the United States eighty percent of the food we eat on a daily basis contains one or more types of GMOs, yet GMO foods have been on the market only since 1994!

This genetic transformation of our diets in the shortest possible time is now replacing our native diets developed over tens of thousands of years; the same with wine.  Only two decades, but the results are already in.  GMO foods are killing us. 

The grafted vine hybrids are a viticultural and wine quality failure and have resulted in mass-produced wines that require chemical manipulation on a major scale to be acceptable.

Before GM vine hybrids took over, the finest wine was created using a species of grape vines known as Vitis Vinifera.  Planting and caring for them had continuity for thousands of years.  Archeological evidence suggests that Vitis Vinifera grape vines in some form existed as far back as the Paleocene and Eocene epochs of the Tertiary period, thirty-eight to sixty-five million years ago.  By the end of the Tertiary period (1.8 million years ago), numerous species within the genus Vitis were distributed throughout the Americas and Eurasia.

The point to this in regards to wine is that when we plant Cabernet Sauvignon or any varietal on its own root we have thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years of genetic tradition.  When we plant grafted hybrids of different species, more often than not, we have a few decades of confused genetic information.  

The mighty grapevines at Carmody McKnight, on their own root, the largest in the world and now incredibly rare.
They are also spaced far enough apart -- 7' x 11' -- so maximum growth can occur.
Great growth means roots nurturing deep into the rich and nutrious subsoils.

Defining Hybrid (as it relates to grafting two species of grape vines)  

A Hybrid Plant and a Graft Hybrid are the cross breeding of two plant species produced through human manipulation, allowing genetic reorganization that gives rise to changing characteristics.  Hybrids often create mineral imbalance especially in grapes and the inability to access minerals and therefore poor resistance to disease.  Hybrid foods are unnatural and devoid of proper mineral balance that all wild foods in native soils contain.  GMO food devised in the lab employs molecular biology techniques.  It is important to point out that in the case of grape vines if the graft hybrids involve the same species, vitis vinifera as the rootstock and vitis vinifera as the scion, there have been no detrimental results experienced in regards to wine.   

Defining GMO (as it relates to grafting two species of grape vines)  

Genetic changes across the graft union can be induced as a result of the grafting.  The effect is evident in grape vine graft hybrids of deferent species.  This genetic transformation is a subject of scientific observation, experimentation, discussion, and debate that goes back to ancient times (see History below).  Graft hybridization which involves the creation of a compound genetic system by uniting two distinct genotypes, as far as grapes and wine grapes are concerned, has been well demonstrated to have unfortunate genetic consequences.

The graft hybrid grape qualifies as a GMO -- or genetically modified organism.  It combines two different plant species producing a third modified plant which behaves differently than either parent, especially the Vitis Vinifera scion.  The negative effect was thoroughly researched in the rootstock comparison trials undertaken by the Roseworthy Grape and Wine Research in the 1990's. The graft hybrid grape vine manifests serious problems with nutrient uptake as concluded in Roseworthy and other studies.  The GMO hybrid grape is known to lose fruit (and wine) color. The essential shape of the berry and cluster are significantly altered.  The vigor of the grafted hybrid is well known as a factor that has varying implications. The taste is also markedly changed as well as the resultant structure of the wine.  In a natural wine from natural vines, structure is dependent on the availability of abundant minerals.

Again, it must be noted when the graft union combines the same grape species, vitis vinifera and vitis vinifera, there is no apparent negative effect as the superior qualities of each side of the graft can interchange with their shared wine-superior genetics.  But if the interchange includes the profoundly wine-inferior vitis labrusca known for its pronounced muskey, grapey, foxy qualities the resultant wine is seriously compromised.  This is a common observance if a vineyard rare should have both graft hybrids and vines on their own root.  

A prominent grape grower in California who farms 3.2 million vines has had a lifetime of dealing directly with this issue.  In years of experiments he experienced the unfortunate consequences of graft hybrids side by side with grafted plants within the same species.  The same species rootstock and scion performed perfectly with supreme quality.  The grafted hybrids were eventually torn out and his entire vineyard is now on its own root.

The term GMO, the technical legal term, 'living modified organism' is defined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which regulates international trade in living GMOs (specifically, "any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology").

FDA and Regulation of GMOs. Genetically engineered or genetically modified organisms (“GMO”s, or “GM foods”) are defined as those in which “the genetic material (“DNA”) has been altered in such a way that does not occur naturally.”

Naturally is the key word here.  Fooling around with combing or grafting two different species on one plant whether in the lab, the nursery, or out in the field you end up with a Frankenvine.  It is defying nature and wiping out 65 million years of genetic history with its disease defenses and natural flavors.  

Most countries have banned the production and selling of GMO foods and created guidelines that demand GMO foods be labeled.  GMO or Frankenfoods are never developed to improve the health benefits of the foods.  Mother Nature in her natural environment and natural soils has already attended to that.  Franken-foods are being developed by mega-conglomerates for profit and to supply the world with massive amounts of cheap food that end up with little to no health value and more often than not create health problems. 

The United States has been compromised by these conglomerates; and, as stated, GMO has taken over our food supply.  It has transformed the United States from the healthiest nation in the world to the sickest among advanced nations.  In a recent program on PBS, and as articles in most newspapers, it was reported that for the first time in our history¦ longevity for American women is actually going down!!!  This is occurring because of women under 50 dying at an alarming rate -- before the age of 50 in fact 4 times faster than any other advanced nation!  Why?  They have been exposed to GMO food the longest (banned in all the other countries).  GMO food means food with essentially no health benefits but make up the majority of this country's diet. The New York Times reported last month that we now have the worst health results of any developed country.  We used to be number one before GMO.

There has been overt obfuscation when it comes to GMO and wine and all the artificial and chemical add-ons as well as the takeover by the grafted hybrid.  It is a taboo subject as the wine industry could not function if it came to terms with the implications.  

Like GMO food, wine that is a result of biotechnological tampering of the vine plant has not only severely limited the health benefits of wine but causes the inclusion of countless chemicals in the wine, some serious toxins, in order to affect or imitate flavors and structure. 

The vast majority of wine today derives from GM genetically modified grapes requiring CM chemically modified winemaking.  Most of it is, in effect, a cheap wine-like drink.

Genetically engineered or genetically modified organisms (or foods) are defined as those in which the genetic material has been altered in such a way that does not occur naturally. This methodology is then used “to create GM plants which are then used to grow GM food crops. The use of these GMOs in the nation food supply has received increasing media and consumer attention and growing alarm due to concerns regarding their safety. For example, Proposal 37 in California, which was narrowly defeated, would have required manufacturer labeling of these food products.  The public will soon have their say.


non-grafted grape vines on their own root


History of Grafting

Whether grafting induces genetic changes across the graft union as a result of the grafting, evident in grape vine graft hybrids, is a subject of scientific observation,  experimentation,  discussion, and even debate that goes back to ancient times.  Graft hybridization involves the creation of a compound genetic system by uniting two distinct genotypes.  As far as grapes and wine grapes are concerned, graft hybrids have been well demonstrated to have unfortunate genetic consequences affecting viticulture and the making of wine. 

It is important to point out that in the case of grape vines if the graft hybrids involve the same species, vitis vinifera as the rootstock and vitis vinifera as the scion, there have been no detrimental results ever noted.  A prominent grape grower in California who farms 3.2 million vines has had a lifetime of dealing directly with this issue.  In years of experiments he experienced the unfortunate consequences of graft hybrids side by side with grafted plants of the same species.  The identical species rootstock and scion performed perfectly with predictable quality.  The grafted hybrids were eventually torn out, and his entire vineyard is now on its own root and thriving even as it is subject to nematodes, phylloxera, leaf roll, etc.

Greek and Roman references indicate that grafting was well known and widely practiced in the Mediterranean region by the fifth century BC and during the Talmudic Hellenistic times. Grafting is specifically mentioned in the New Testament (Christian Bible). In Romans 11:24, it is used as an analogy for how Gentiles can become one with Israel: For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree?  A similar and clearly derivative passage on grafting is found in the Book of Mormon (Jacob 5:17), which implies a belief that the fruit of the scion could be drastically improved by the root stock.

In the 16th century, Jewish law prohibited the use of citron fruit for the feast of Tabernacles if the citron tree had been grafted onto lemon root stock (Nicolosi et al. 2005).  Some rabbis even went so far as to express the view that citron fruit from an ungrafted tree originally propagated from cutting taken from a tree that had been grafted was not permissible. This view was derived in part from a general belief that the rootstock influences the nature (genotype) of the scion so that a fruit from a grafted tree or from a tree propagated from a grafted tree was in some sense a hybrid between the stock and scion and hence religiously forbidden.

Even William Shakespeare poetically chimes in on the subject and alludes to the influence of stock on scion in The Winter's Tale:

You see, sweet maid, we marry
A gentler scion to the wildest stock
And make conceive a bark of baser kind
By bud of nobler race. This is an art
Which does mend Nature change it rather;
But the art itself is Nature. 

In the 16th century, the Italian Giambattista della Porta (1584) declared that the scion of an orange grafted on a lemon stock could produce lemons half sweet, half sour. Gervase Markham (1635) stated: if you take an apple graft and a pear graft of like bigness and having cloven them join them as one body in grafting, the fruits they bring forth will be half apple and half pear. 

More recently, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (USA), Genetics, Journal of Heredity, Euphytica, and Theoretical and Applied Genetics, reported observations that strongly support the concept of graft hybridization with unfortunate results, particularly a series of papers published by Japanese researchers using a range of species including red pepper, eggplant, tomato, tobacco, and soybean. The most intensive analysis focused on changes observed in grafted Capiscum annum cultivars with varying fruit morphology (Hirata et. al. 1986; Yagishta 1961; Kashara et al. 1971). This work employed mentor grafting in which a very young seedling that is continually defoliated is grafted to a mature rootstock, so that the scion is a sink for stock-derived nutrients. A range of stocklike phenotypic characteristics were observed in the scion fruit, and in some case, these characteristics were transmitted to seedling progeny (Taller 1998).  

Another Japanese scientist repeated this work (Ohta 1991) with largely similar results. Among the stocklike phenotypes reported to be inherited in the scion progeny were alterations of fruiting direction, fruiting habit, and pericarp color.  Ohta states that genetic analysis indicates that these three traits are due to independently inherited Mendelian genes that are highly stable in the cultivars used in the grafting studies. The frequency of transmission of stocklike traits in the progeny of the scion was reported to be highly variable across different experiments.

Report of graft transformation continue to be reported and published, in reputable journals, and the evidence of genetic effects of grafting have historical and contemporary scientific support. The recent recognition that gene silencing signals, perhaps small RNAs, can pass across the graft union has brought new attention to the subject concerning the genetic effects of grafting. 

(Reference: A History of Grafting Mudge, Janick, Scofield, Goldschmidt)

Twenty-Six Countries Ban GMOs—Why Won’t the US?

(update: 38 countries now ban GMO)

The case against GMOs has strengthened steadily over the last few years,

even as the industry has expanded all over the world.

By Walden Bello and Foreign Policy In Focus October 29,2013

This article is a joint publication of and Foreign Policy in Focus.

A few years ago, there were sixteen countries that had total or partial bans on GMOs. Now there are at least twenty-six, including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia. Significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about sixty other countries.

Restraints on trade in GMOs based on phyto-sanitary grounds, which are allowed under the World Trade Organization, have increased. Already, American rice farmers face strict limitations on their exports to the European Union, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, and are banned altogether from Russia and Bulgaria because unapproved genetically engineered rice “escaped” during open-field trials on GMO rice.  Certain Thai exports—particularly canned fruit salads containing papaya to Germany, and sardines in soy oil to Greece and the Netherlands—were recently banned due to threat of contamination by GMOs. 

The Case against GMOs Gains Strength

The case against GMOs has strengthened steadily over the last few years. Critics say that genetic engineering disrupts the precise sequence of a food’s genetic code and disturbs the functions of neighboring genes, which can give rise to potentially toxic or allergenic molecules or even alter the nutritional value of food produced. The Bt toxin used in GMO corn, for example, was recently detected in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, with possibly harmful consequences.

A second objection concerns genetic contamination. A GMO crop, once released in the open, reproduces via pollination and interacts genetically with natural varieties of the same crop, producing what is called genetic contamination. According to a study published in Nature, one of the world’s leading scientific journals, Bt corn has contaminated indigenous varieties of corn tested in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Third, a GMO, brought into natural surroundings, may have a toxic or lethal impact on other living things. Thus, it was found that Bt corn destroyed the larvae of the monarch butterfly, raising well-grounded fears that many other natural plant and animal life may be impacted in the same way.

Fourth, the benefits of GMOs have been oversold by the companies, like Monsanto and Syngenta, that peddle them. Most genetically engineered crops are either engineered to produce their own pesticide in the form of Bacillus thurengiensis (Bt) or are designed to be resistant to herbicides, so that herbicides can be sprayed in massive quantities to kill pests without harming the crops. It has been shown, however, that insects are fast developing resistance to Bt as well as to herbicides, resulting in even more massive infestation by the new superbugs. No substantial evidence exists that GM crops yield more than conventional crops. What genetically engineered crops definitely do lead to is greater use of pesticide, which is harmful both to humans and the environment.

A fifth argument is that patented GMO seeds concentrate power in the hands of a few biotech corporations and marginalize small farmers. As the statement of the eighty-one members of the World Future Council put it, “While profitable to the few companies producing them, GMO seeds reinforce a model of farming that undermines sustainability of cash-poor farmers, who make up most of the world’s hungry. GMO seeds continue farmers’ dependency on purchased seed and chemical inputs. The most dramatic impact of such dependency is in India, where 270,000 farmers, many trapped in debt for buying seeds and chemicals, committed suicide between 1995 and 2012.”