October 27, 2015



Cathleen McCluskey, Organic Seed Alliance, (360) 472-0247,


First-Ever Pacific Northwest Organic Plant Breeding Symposium to be Held in February


Port Townsend, WA – Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) will host a symposium this winter to identify opportunities and priorities for advancing organic plant breeding in the Pacific Northwest. The symposium will be held in conjunction with OSA’s 8th Organic Seed Growers Conference on February 3, 2016, in Corvallis, Oregon.


“The long-term goal of this symposium is to increase farmer access to regionally appropriate vegetable, grain, and pulse seed well-suited for organic production,” says Micaela Colley, executive director of Organic Seed Alliance. “Farmers who follow organic practices must focus more on prevention and resistance because they have fewer inputs at their disposal. They need crop varieties developed specifically for low-input systems – crops that mitigate pest and disease pressures, and that are adapted to their Pacific Northwest conditions and climates.”


Organic farmers face different challenges than their conventional counterparts, such as having fewer allowable inputs available for dealing with pest and disease pressures. To date, plant-breeding efforts focused on organic systems have been minimal, and organic farmers remain underserved in seed adapted to organic conditions. Research demonstrates that varieties developed under conventional, chemical-intensive conditions are not always successful in organic and other low-input systems.


The symposium – which focuses on the needs of growers in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho – will bring together stakeholders representing the organic production chain. Public and private plant breeders will be joined by farmers, seed distributors, food processors, and other seed and food professionals to identify critical gaps in crop availability and quality in the Pacific Northwest. The information gathered from this targeted group will advise public plant breeding efforts through a report that includes detailed recommendations.


In addition to the targeted participant invitations, individuals working in the Pacific Northwest organic production chain may apply to participate in this working symposium by filling out an application at Applications must be completed by November 30, 2015, to be considered. Space is limited.


OSA is co-hosting this symposium with Oregon State University, Washington State University, and the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides. The symposium is made possible thanks to support from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2014-67013-22404.


About Organic Seed Alliance: Organic Seed Alliance advances the ethical development and stewardship of the genetic resources of agricultural seed. Each year we educate thousands of farmers and other agricultural community members, conduct professional organic plant breeding and other seed research, and advocate for national policies that strengthen organic seed systems. Learn more at


# # #