Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources

Organic Agriculture

Organic Seed


Introduction

Organic seed has come into focus recently because the National Organic Program now mandates that certified organic growers must utilize organic seed unless “an equivalent organically produced variety is not commercially available.” Click here to review the full text (7 C.F.R. 205.204 (a) (1)). While the availability of organic seed has greatly increased within recent years, growers have several concerns. First, suppliers of suitable varieties and quantities of organic seed can be hard to find. Second, there is concern about quality of organic seed particularly regarding seed-borne diseases. And third, there is concern about field losses due to both seedborne and soilborne pathogens because of the limited number of options for organic seed treatment.

The NOP provides the exception to mandatory organic seed use because organic seed is not yet readily available. However, growers are no longer allowed to use seeds treated with materials prohibited for use in organic production (ie., fungicides like Ziram, Thiram). Any allowed seed treatments would be listed on the NOP National List, OMRI or WSDA approved brand name and generic material lists. Non-compliance may result in loss of organic certification and a reapplication for transition to organic status that takes 36 months. Although many organic growers continue to rely on non-organic seed, there are several sources of organic seed and growers are strongly encouraged to begin using organic seed.


Sources of Organic Seed

OMRI Organic Seed and Planting Stock List. OMRI’s website includes lists of organic crops and cultivars available from various seed companies.

Pennsylvania Certified Organic. PCO’s website also provides a comprehensive list of organic seed suppliers.

Certified Organic Seed Suppliers Listed By Crop and Variety. Updated January 2006. Companies with organic seeds in mostly bulk quantities are listed. This is not an exhaustive list, and seed availability often changes frequently. Please contact the seed company for current availability. (XLS)


Publications

Organic Seed Growers Conference 2008 Proceedings

Organic Seed Growers Conference 2006 Proceedings

Breeding for Organics. An article in The Seed Midden that describes current issues regarding organic seed. Written by Micaela Colley and Matthew Dillon.

Dry Small-Seeded Specialty Seed: A Resource Guide for Oregon and Washington Grower. By Alex Stone, Linda Brewer, and Carol Miles. 2006. Oregon State University Extension Service.


Resource Links

National Organic Program includes policies and updates, the new organic seal and its use, lists of organic certifiers, N.O.S.B. (National Organic Standards Board) members and updates, and resource links.

Organic Materials Review Institute is a nonprofit organization that reviews substances for use in the production, processing and handling of organic agriculture.

Organic Seed Alliance is a northwest organization whose mission is “to support the ethical development and stewardship of the genetic resources of agricultural seed. We accomplish our goals through collaborative education and research programs with organic farmers and other seed professionals.”

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