Seeds of Change: NOSB Meetings to Propose Changes to Guidelines for Organic Seed Use


The hot topic of discussion during the National Organic Standards Board meeting this April will be whether to  strengthen guidance on organic seed use.   While organic seeds have become more available, the amount of organic seeds used by growers has not increased, leading many to believe  increase organic seed production is not moving quickly enough for the industry.

According to The National Organic Program (NOP) Guidance on Seeds, Annual Seedlings and Planting Stock Used in Organic Crop Production (NOP 5029),  producers must use organic seed and planting stock except when organic seed is not commercially available.  Producers are required to keep detailed records not only of seed used, but also of progress made in obtaining organic seed which is included in the certification process.

Kelly Damewood, director of policy and government affairs for CCOF,  said, "CCOF supports the NOSB’s ongoing work to strengthen the use of organic seed. Encouraging use of organic seed contributes to the success of organic seed growers and increases the availability of organic seed."

Among potential way to strengthen the 2013 guidance is to add language that requires producers to prove that “improvement in sourcing and use of organic seed and planting stock must be demonstrated every year until full compliance is achieved.”  Full compliance is defined as using organic seed only.

Ocean Mist

Other ways to strengthen the existing guidance include:

  • Require justification for use of each variety of non-organic seed used
  • Encourage the use of on-farm seed trials of organic seed
  • For at-risk crops, require a minimum of five seed sources to confirm that organic seed is commercially unavailable
  • Allow certifiers to issue non-compliance to producers failing to demonstrate progress and require corrective action plans
  • Create an organic seed availability database that provides more in-depth information

The deadline to comment on the website and to sign up for an in-person slot or webinar comment is Thursday, March 30.

For more details, click here to access the NOSB meeting materials.

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