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Organic Seed Production



ORGANIC SEED PRODUCTION

The organic vegetable industry is flourishing due to consumers preference for organically grown produce over traditionally produced vegetables. As a result, an increase in the variety and selection of many vegetables in retail supermarkets and restaurants throughout many countries has occurred recently. With the new regulation (October 2000) requiring organic seed sources for organically labeled vegetables, many organic growers are searching for certified organic seed. Smaller seed companies have produced the majority of organically produced seed to date. The commercial seed sector is starting to provide a more diverse selection of cultivars, yet there are still many hybrids that are not yet available.

Organic farmers must use organic seed material if such seed are available. If not available, conventional seeds can be used. This request exists in all accredited standards for organic farming. In the EU-regulation on organic production methods, the derogation from the use of organic seed material will only exist until the end of 2003. After this date only organic seed material may be used according to the present formulation. Only a few countries in the EU have an organic seed production able to supply the market for organic seed material.

Organic farmers must use organic seed material if such seed are available. If not available, conventional seeds can be used. This request exists in all accredited standards for organic farming. In the EU-regulation on organic production methods, the derogation from the use of organic seed material will only exist until the end of 2003. After this date only organic seed material may be used according to the present formulation. Only a few countries in the EU have an organic seed production able to supply the market for organic seed material.

It takes many years to develop a well functioning market for organic seeds. It is therefore unlikely that the derogation for the use of organic seed material will not be extended, since a majority of countries in the EU will still have a need for conventional propagated seeds. However, it will be needed to have standards and control procedures ensuring that organic seeds will be used if available. This includes definitions of “availability”. There is a need in both EU and in accession countries to develop criteria for seeds health in organic seeds and other seeds not treated with fungicides and to implement inspection procedures to control that conventional seeds are only used when organic seeds are not available.

There are 251 different varieties of organic seed commercially available to organic farmers and growers, 98% of which are vegetable varieties and 1% are cereal varieties. There are no grasses or herbage legumes available. Of the major crops, only few of the varieties most commonly used by organic producers are currently available as organic seed.

In general view that organic seed was in short supply. Based on 1997 data, demand for organic cereal seed is likely to double, demand for vegetable seed will triple, and demand for grassland seed will increase 7 or 8 times. With the current trend in organic seed production, these demands will not be met at the end of the derogation period unless a massive increase in production takes place.

The problems associated with organic seed production could be broadly placed within three categories: 1) Marketing, 2) Technical and 3) Standards.

Many were only perceived problems (not actual ones) that could be overcome through education, training and discussion.

However, organic seed production must go ahead and that there are no real obstacles to cause delay.

Comments and recommendations for future actions

  • Press ahead with organic seed production.
  • More rigorous policing of the current derogation is required.
  • Make a rapid commitment not to extend the current derogation.
  • Major improvements are required in organic variety testing to identify which varieties should be produced as organic seed.
  • Further work is required on pest, disease and weed problems specifically related to organic seed production.
  • Research is required on the standards.

Organic Farming



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