The ostentatious sign. Tended 2002-2007

In the organic EC Garden on the UC Davis campus there was a curious plot of earth with a large white sign that advertised genetically modified organisms. What's the deal with this?

The sign was a teaser, modified from an old civil engineering business sign, and created some controversy in the gardens, where genetically engineered organisms are not allowed to be grown. Of course, there were no genetically engineered crops there, and so the sign may have been a bit misleading. The original intent of posting this sign was to stir up discussion over the exclusion of genetically engineered crops from organic agriculture. It was to be followed by a few signs explaining interesting facts about crop genetics. The additional signs were of a lower priority than the gardening itself, so they never made it off the drawing board.

While originally intended just for growing fruits and veggies, the garden became a nice place to relax, featuring a fish pond, hammock, and sturdy scrap wood picnic table under the shade of a nearby tree. Two stumps painted blue were donated by Wolfgang Rougle, who had a garden elsewhere in the EC Garden. Signs of children turn up from time to time such as toys in the grass and lip gloss and water pistols on the table.

Garlic, red, yellow, yellow onions, Chard.

The garden was maintained by Karl J. Mogel, and Ariela Haro also dug her fingers into the soil a bit. Produce (successfully) grown here has included: tomatoes, corn, eggplant, pole beans, onions, garlic, chard, bok choy, blue potatoes, cucumbers, crookneck squash, butternut squash, gourds, grapes, strawberries, spearmint, sunflowers, and sage. The garden also sported annual flowers and a wide selection of colorful glassware, many purchased from nearby Thrift Stores and L Street Furniture.

Although Mogel Engineering presented a controversial viewpoint, gardeners at the EC are tolerant and friendly, sometimes approaching with questions out of curiosity. A resident of the nearby Baggins End Domes once jumped with gleeful excitement upon seeing the sign. There was a little petty vandalism at the garden, such as missing or broken glassware and bricks knocked into the pond. It was anyone's guess whether this was due to the sign or just the presence of the inviting glass itself.

"Rather than creating a wall between myself and other gardeners, since I put up the sign I've gotten to know a whole lot more of the people renting plots around me, and across the garden. But there was one, however, who sent me some vitriolic emails, and has since never taken me up on my offer to stop by the garden and talk." - Karl Mogel

Now that Karl is preparing for graduate school this year, perhaps to leave Davis, the plot is being cleared for future gardeners. Rest assured, when Karl's settled, Mogel Engineering will take root again.

First harvest of red onions. Genetically manipulating crops is ok for organic as long as its polyploidy. Go figure. In 2006, this garden had a bumper crop of various Solanum fruits. It wasn't quite enough to make me sick of Eggplant Parmesan. In this early-season picture, you can clearly see petunia flowers growing behind the young eggplants. These plants were included both because PTGS was discovered in petunias, and a petunia pigment gene was harnessed to make purple carnations and the world's first blue rose.


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2007-03-07 22:40:35   I got a chuckle out of this. I love the sign! —DavidGrundler

2007-06-30 08:11:44   I've hated that sign for years. I never knew it was a joke. I didn't know GMO's wern't allowed in the EC. I guess I never asked (you or the EC). good one. —PxlAted

2007-10-11 16:29:14   Well, it's half-joke. I meant to add more signs giving info, but when drought and other things taking up my time made my gardening few and far between - I couldn't justify the extra effort at the time. It's kind of a joke because a professional-looking sign advertising GMOs in an organic garden is a juxtaposition. A UC Davis geneticist and an organic farmer have a book coming out next year about the combination of GE and Organic, so it was serious in that it is a position that I do hold. This reminds me, I have a few more pictures to add here! —KarlMogel

2008-08-05 14:31:24   Call it morbid curiosity, but what is the reason for no GMO? —StevenDaubert