The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will soon convene in Jacksonville, FL, for its fall meeting. On the agenda is a proposal to strengthen organic integrity – beginning with seed. If you join OSA in believing that organic seed plays an important role in a farmer’s success and a healthier food and farming future, please comment!
The NOSB’s efforts to encourage more availability of diverse organic seed options isn’t just important for helping farmers meet a regulatory requirement —the benefits are potentially far-reaching: healthier seed and food options from field to plate. Organic seed issues are complex, to be sure, and the NOSB is working to balance this complexity by providing practical recommendations that balance reality with regulatory requirements.
Can you submit a short written comment today? Tell the NOSB why organic seed is important to you, and that you support strengthening the organic seed guidance and regulation. Comments are due this Wed., October 11th.
Why does organic seed matter?
Organic plant breeders and seed producers are working for organic farmers by focusing on traits that are especially important to low-input systems, such as quick emergence, weed competitiveness, nutrient-use efficiency, disease resistance, and so much more. Too much of our seed is currently bred and produced under conventional, agrochemical conditions, and with breeding goals that too often don’t benefit organic farmers. The organic community has an opportunity to create a path for organic seed that’s distinct from the dominant seed industry controlled by agrochemical interests.
We all have a role to play in creating this path. Increasing the availability of organic seed isn’t just important for helping farmers meet a regulatory requirement — the benefits are potentially far-reaching. This is because seed holds endless potential for transforming our food system, especially when coupled with the principles that built the organic movement — the principles of diversity, health, ecology, and fairness. We can breed and grow more organic seed that is adapted to organic farming systems and regional climates, and that contain traits important in the field and on our plates. This path is shaped by our individual decisions to choose organic seed when appropriate, to communicate ongoing supply gaps and challenges to the organic seed community, and to advocate for collaborative solutions to meet these needs.
Why is this proposal important?
Current organic standards require organic farmers to use organic seed when commercially available. Because the organic seed supply was insufficient when the standards were implemented in 2002, farmers have been allowed to plant non-organic seed when organic seed is unavailable. This exemption provides a transition time for the organic seed supply to catch up to demand. Since its adoption, we’ve made much progress in increasing the quantity, diversity, and quality of organic seed available. Though the exemption is still needed given supply gaps, it is more important than ever that organic operations continuously improve their use of organic seed.
What does the proposal say?
The proposal recommends an update to the organic seed requirement by calling on farmers to demonstrate annual improvements in sourcing organic seed. It allows certifiers flexibility in working with operations to meet this goal. The proposal also provides detailed recommendations for improving the National Organic Program’s guidance document on organic seed and planting stock, a crucial resource for certifiers who must interpret and enforce the organic seed requirement. These recommendations would result in clearer guidance and more consistent enforcement of the organic seed requirement. Organic seed issues are complex, to be sure. We believe the NOSB’s work honors this complexity by providing practical recommendations that balance reality with regulatory requirements.
Will organic farmers be “forced” to use organic seed?
No! No one is intent on forcing certified farmers to use organic seed that isn’t a good fit for their production systems and markets. Yet the allowance to use non-organic seed has also proven a challenge to growing the diversity and quality of organic seed available. This modest proposal recommends that organic operators who don’t make an effort to source more organic seed over the years be encouraged to take extra measures to demonstrate improvement. This is a practical proposal that signals to the broader organic community that organic seed is important to organic integrity, and that further investments in organic seed will have a positive ripple effect that leads to more high-quality seed options that are well-suited to organic systems.
How do I submit a comment?
Submitting a public comment is easy! Go to this link to write or upload your comments. State who you are and why organic seed matters to you, and explain that you’re writing in support of the NOSB’s work to strengthen the organic seed guidance and regulation. Comments are due this Wednesday, October 11, 2017.
Where can I find information about the NOSB’s next meeting?
The next NOSB meeting in Jacksonville, FL, will take place from October 31 – November 2, 2017. Learn more about the meeting, including the agenda, here. Find all of the NOSB’s proposals and discussion documents here, including the Crops Subcommittee proposal titled, “Strengthening the organic seed guidance” (page 51).
What is OSA’s position on the proposal?
OSA strongly supports strengthening the organic seed guidance and regulation. Our comments identify a few areas that could be made more clear. You can view our comments to the NOSB here.