This is the twenty-second installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.
The fall harvest is in, and organic farmers are already looking forward to planting their spring seedlings. Organic farmers rely on organic seeds to meet the growing demand for certified organic products. These seeds are essential to the integrity of the supply chain for quality organic food, feed and other products. All organic producers must use organic seeds, annual seedlings and planting stock unless organic varieties are not commercially available.
To meet the increased demand for organic seeds, the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is collaborating and sharing information with the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and its partner, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA), to better understand the organic seed market and to help farmers locate seed producers and supplies.
For example, NOP supported the creation of the AOSCA Organic Seed Finder, a website that allows organic seed vendors and potential customers to find one another. Certifying agents and organic operations can use this tool to locate available organic seed and ensure the integrity of those seeds.
The use of organic seed is also an important aspect of organic certification. During each farm’s annual review and inspection, certifying agents also verify that certified operations use organic seed varieties. Certifying agents also make sure that USDA organic products meet all of the organic standards, including reviewing substances and inputs used to treat seeds and planting stock. This review assures buyers and sellers that any seed treatments are approved for organic production. Like other organic products, seeds used in organic agriculture cannot be genetically engineered or be treated with prohibited substances.
It is amazing to think that something as small as a seed can have such a huge role in providing organic food to consumers around the world. USDA is committed to supporting the entire organic community and ensuring the integrity of organic products from seed to table.