Zucchini, a delicious type of summer squash, is one of the lesser-known GMO risk crops. It is almost exclusively grown in the United States. There are only about 2,500 acres of GMO zucchini—that’s ten small family farms worth. While there are well over 200 different varieties of GMO corn, there are only two known GMO squash events.
Despite its comparative lack of prevalence, GMO zucchini is widely commercially available in both Canada and the United States. This makes it a high-risk crop under the Non-GMO Project Standard, meaning zucchini and products containing zucchini are subject to particularly stringent requirements—including testing for GMO DNA—before they can become Non-GMO Project Verified.
Zucchini and Mosaic Viruses
While most GMOs are meant to tolerate an herbicide or produce an insecticide, GMO squash is meant to be resistant to certain types of viruses. Zucchini yellow mosaic virus is the most prevalent of these. This virus is transmitted primarily by aphids and causes infected plants to grow small, unhealthy fruit. It is closely related to the ringspot disease in papayas.
As it turns out, these genetic modifications do not do much to protect this summer squash from viruses. GMO zucchini only mitigates mosaic viruses; the plants still get infected and symptoms, albeit less severe symptoms, still appear. Additionally, zucchini remains vulnerable to several other types of viruses that GMOs offer no protection against. Once again, the world’s largest chemical companies have failed to deliver on their promises to farmers.
It’s not surprising that GMO zucchini is not in high demand. Farmers still need to use proper pest-management techniques in conjunction with their virus-resistant crops. This usually means deterring aphids by removing the weeds that host them and introducing natural predators such as ladybugs. It also means planting barrier crops that appeal to aphids. These techniques are just part of a healthy and biodiverse agricultural system to which GMOs are adding nothing but risk. We don’t need GMOs to solve our food system challenges, but we do need effective farming practices! You can help support the farmers who work hard to grow non-GMO zucchini and summer squash by choosing Non-GMO Project Verified squash.