Spring 2012 Newsletter

All of us at Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) are still basking in the success of our 6th Organic Seed Growers Conference, held this past January. The conference drew more than 300 people in Port Townsend, WA, and an additional 200 participants via live webinars. We couldn’t be prouder of this record attendance.


What excites us most, however, is the participation across the globe in building seed systems that meet the needs of the organic community. Our conference provided evidence for this, and, indeed, shows we’ve reached a tipping point. More than ever, diverse members of the organic community are working together to ensure organic farmers have the seed they need to be successful.


In this newsletter, you’ll find valuable resources coming out of our conference, including the proceedings and archived webinars. You’ll also find upcoming events not to miss, like a repeat of our conference “Breeding for Nutrition” webinar. We’re also excited to announce a new breeding project focused on carrots and the 2011 NOVIC variety trial results. And if you live in the Southeast or California, don’t miss an opportunity to help us shape regional organic seed projects.


I want to personally thank our generous sponsors and everyone who participated in our biennial Organic Seed Growers Conference. We cannot build organic seed systems through collaborative research, education, and advocacy without your support and work. I look forward to seeing you at our next conference in 2014.


Warm wishes this spring,

Micaela Colley
Executive Director


USDA-OREI Grant Supports Innovation in Organic Plant Breeding

Planning is underway for the new Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture project, sponsored by USDA’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI). Project collaborators have begun the first season of a four-year breeding project to develop new carrot varieties for organic agriculture. This is a partnership between OSA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Purdue University, University of California-Riverside, Washington State University, and the Agricultural Research Service. Read more



NOVIC Variety Trials (2011)
The results are in from the 2011 NOVIC sweet corn, carrot, broccoli, snap pea, and winter squash variety trials! To see how an array of commercial and experimental varieties did when grown on organic ground in Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, click here (New York results coming soon). NOVIC, or the Northern Organic Variety Improvement Collaborative, is a four-year USDA-OREI funded project that partners with organic farmers to breed new varieties, identify the best performing existing varieties for organic agriculture, and educate farmers on organic seed production and plant variety improvement.



Conference Proceedings and Organic Plant Breeding Webinars

More than 50 speakers presented at our 6th Organic Seed Growers Conference on organic plant breeding; organic seed production, harvesting, and distribution; enterprise development; and policy. The conference proceedings are available for free download here. Conference recordings, which feature the organic plant breeding workshops, are available through eXtension.



Farmers Still Waiting for Justice
Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the first of five workshops held by the Justice and Agriculture departments as part of a 2010 effort to engage the public on competition issues affecting agriculture. More than 15,000 public comments later, and neither agency has provided a formal response to the public about what they discovered and what they’re doing to confront anticompetitive conduct, especially in the seed industry. OSA provided detailed descriptions of the problems, as well as solutions, in this letter (opens PDF) and continues to raise the visibility of the consequences of seed concentration for farmer choice, innovation, and food security through public presentations and policy organizing.



Tell FDA to 'Just Label It'

In October 2011, a legal petition was filed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on behalf of more than 400 organizations and businesses to require the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The number of public comments supporting this petition is nearing one million. We need your help to reach this goal. If you support labeling, provide your comments today. And then send this link to five friends. Yesterday Senator Boxer and Congressman DeFazio sent a congressional sign-on letter to the FDA in support of this petition.



Take Action on Pesticide-Promoting Corn
USDA recently announced an extension on its public comment period for 2,4-D corn. Provide public comments directly to the docket here (docket number: APHIS-2010-0103). More background on the issue can be found here. The deadline for comments is April 27, 2012.


Building Organic Seed Systems

OSA is working with partners in the Southeast to assess opportunities for expanding and improving the region’s organic seed system. Obtaining feedback from stakeholders is vital to this assessment process. If you are involved in agriculture in the Southeast, please take ten minutes to complete this survey. Your responses are voluntary and will be kept confidential. In related news, OSA is using input from a similar survey and a recent stakeholder meeting to assess and strengthen California’s organic seed systems. Read about that stakeholder meeting here.


Seed Broadcast Highlights Seed Matters Funds Fellowships in Organic Plant Breeding

OSA is a proud organizational partner of Seed Matters, a Clif Bar Family Foundation initiative that funds projects that conserve crop diversity, protect farmers’ roles and rights as seed innovators and stewards, and reinvigorate public seed research and education. Read more


Supplement Supplier Sows Support for Organic Seed

Standard Process Inc. recently contributed $1,420 to OSA. The contribution was a result of Standard Process’ 2010 pledge to support organic farming and farmers. The company said it would donate proceeds from its recently released book, “Quality From Seed to Supplement,” to an organization also championing organic farming. The organization was selected from three choices based on an online poll of Standard Process’ Facebook fans. Read more


The Promising Potential of Open-Pollinated Corn

Misinformation and polarized views on seed seem to flood the media these days, as evidenced by Andrew Revkin’s blog post. I think we all agree, however, that seed is essential to life, now and in the future. There are a few topics highlighted in this blog post that demand a deeper examination. Read more


Upcoming OSA Events

Breeding for Nutrition Webinar | March 23, 2012 The “Breeding for Nutrition” workshop from our 6th Organic Seed Growers Conference will be repeated as a live webinar on March 23, 2012, at 11 a.m. PST. Speakers include Jim Myers of Oregon State University, Phil Simon of University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Walter Goldstein of the Mandaamin Institute. The webinar is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Humboldt Seed and Plant Exchange | March 31, 2013 Join OSA's Jared Zystro for his Backyard Breeding class at the Hubmoldt Seed and Plant Exchange. This free event will be held at the Arcata Community Center, 321 Community Parkway, Arcata, CA from 11am - 4pm. Please vistit the Humboldt Permaculture Guild website for more information.

Organic On-farm Plant Breeding short course | June 4-5, 2012 Learn the fundamental skills to develop and adapt seed varieties for your organic farm conditions at this 2-day workshop hosted by the Organic Seed Alliance. Organic Plant Breeding Specialist Dr. John Navazio will discuss such topics as: the biology of seed production, seed harvest and cleaning, choosing appropriate seed crops for your system and climate, maintaining the genetic integrity of varieties with appropriate population sizes and isolation distances, conducting variety trials, and basic on-farm breeding techniques such as mass selection and progeny testing. Prior experience in basic seed growing is recommended. Pre-registration is required - please register here.

Organicology | February 7 – 9, 2013 Organicology is an interactive conference designed to meet the diverse needs of our rapidly expanding trade. The conference offers educational and networking events that enhance the understanding and skills of our diverse organic community, from seed producers and farmers, to distributors, retailers, researchers, chefs, policy activists, and eaters. The 2013 conference will continue to focus on sustainability, farming and seed issues, and a wide range of timely topics that impact the organic trade.

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“OSA is a convener, partner, and leader in creating the alternative -- a regionally based seed system by us and for us. Collaboration in their spinach breeding work has given me hands-on experience through which I've gained both skills and confidence as a seed grower.”


Julie Puhich

Common Ground Farm

Olympia, Washington