Like other organic products, seeds used in organic agriculture cannot be genetically engineered or be treated with prohibited substances.
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. Read more »
AMS’s Seed Regulatory and Testing Division scientist conducts a test to detect the presence of harmful pathogens in grass seed. USDA photo.
Before the late 1800’s, there weren’t any standards or laws overseeing the seed trade. This allowed individuals to take advantage of the unorganized seed market by selling low quality seed to buyers. In some instances, what was sold wasn’t even seed at all.
Unfortunately, even the most seasoned seed buyers can’t always tell what they will get when purchasing seed. Will the seed grow? If it does grow, what will it grow into? Will these seeds contain a disease that will hurt my other crops? Will the packet contain other unwanted weeds that will reduce my yield, hurt my animals, or destroy my land? The worst part is that the outcome of your purchase won’t be known for months after you buy and “try” to grow them. In the late 1800’s, these questions asked by millions of people around the world led to the rapid development of laboratories tasked with using science to predict seed quality. Read more »
The international seed trade plays an intricate role in what we call the American way of life, providing us the products we know and love.
Did you know that corn and soybeans account for 50 percent of the harvested acres in the United States? Together, these two commodities had $106 billion in sales in 2012—not bad for products that start off as humble seeds. The U.S. seed industry is valued at more than $7 billion, and accounts for 34 percent of the world’s international seed trade. Our top seed exports are corn, soybean and sunflower seeds. And the international seed trade plays an intricate role in what we call the American way of life, providing us the products we know and love.
In today’s global market, limitations in manufacturing capabilities, shifts in climate, or simple geography all impact a country’s ability to satisfy all of its own needs. This means economies and agriculture systems around the globe are interconnected. Through trade, countries are able to market their resources to boost their economies and ensure access to a stable supply of food and products. Read more »
AMS ensures that seed shipped in interstate commerce are labeled and advertised truthfully. This allows seed buyers to make informed choices and promotes fair competition within the industry.
Believe it or not, food doesn’t come from the refrigerator or even the kitchen. It doesn’t even come from the grocery store or the farmer. All food—whether meat, grain, vegetable or fruit—owes its existence to seeds. Seeds are the backbone of human existence, providing us with the fundamental necessities needed for life: food, clothing, medicine, and shelter.
To protect the quality of these important, yet often forgotten, natural resources and to promote a robust U.S. seed market (current value of over $7.3 billion), Congress enacted a program over a century ago that would later evolve into what is now known as the Federal Seed Act. The act, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in Gastonia, NC, is a law that protects American businesses, farmers, and the general public from misrepresentation when buying seed. Read more »
Grasses grown from the NRCS Plant Materials Center in Los Lunas line the edge of Mather Point in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
For more than 20 years, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has been growing seeds for the Grand Canyon National Park and other national parks.
When the National Park Service renovated the Grand Canyon’s South Rim visitor center in 2008, they looked to the NRCS Plants Materials Center in Los Lunas, N.M. to produce the seed needed to restore native grasses in the area.
Now, driving along eight miles of twists and turns of the South Rim, you can see the bright green grasses surrounding the parking lots, roads, and popular viewpoints including Prima Point, Hermit’s Rest and the Bright Angel Trailhead. Read more »
Potatoes are just one of the many plant varieties issued certificates of protection by PVPO. Photo credit: Scott Bauer
Plant breeders use certificates of intellectual property rights protection as an important marketing tool. The Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is a user fee funded program that grants these certificates after careful and detailed review. Breeders of new plant varieties hold the certificates exclusively for 20 years. That benefit creates an incentive for the plant and seed industry to develop new varieties. Since 1970, PVPO has issued more than 8,700 certificates.
Sometimes offering a great service can also create problems, such as customer requests stacking up. That is exactly what happened to PVPO which found itself with a backlog of pending applications. The program took the issue head on by initiating a business process review in 2011. Read more »