Organic Seed Alliance Releases “State of Organic Seed” Report
February 23rd, 2011
On February 16, 2011, the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) released a survey-based report entitled State of Organic Seed: Advancing the Viability and Integrity of Organic Seed Systems. The report serves as the first comprehensive analysis of the organic seed sector.
Although the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) requires the use of organic seed when commercially available, the organic seed industry has not caught up to meet the increased demand for organic seed. According to Matt Dillon, one of the study’s lead authors, “The lack of organically bred and produced seed is a barrier to the growth and ongoing success of organic farming.” Many farmers report difficulties in finding specific varieties, or finding varieties with desirable genetic traits. At the same time, a majority of the farmers surveyed reported increased pressure by certification agents to source organic seed.
Based on these findings, the authors of the report argue that organic seed needs to meet regional challenges in terms of climate and soil, but also conform to local market demand. Furthermore, additional investment in organic plant breeding is needed to promote seed with genetics that are better adapted to pest and disease pressures, growing seasons, and flavor and nutrition.
The report makes the following recommendations:
- Develop seed systems that respond to the diverse needs of organic farmers through increased public-private collaboration
- Engage the National Organic Program in policy initiatives to promote organic seed
- Encourage public plant breeding, emphasizing development of cultivars that fit the social, agronomic, environmental, and market needs of organic
- Protect organic seed systems from concentrated ownership of plant genetics
- Protect organic seed systems from contamination from genetically engineered traits
- Improve information about organic seed availability, lack of availability for specific varieties or traits, and about field trial data
- Create opportunities for farmers to work with professional breeders, including trialing networks and on-farm plant breeding to enable faster development of regionally-adapted varieties
To download the full report, click here.