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Production of organic seed for the organic sector (OF0154)

Wolfe, Prof Martin (2000) Production of organic seed for the organic sector (OF0154). Elm Farm Research Centre.

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Online at: http://www2.defra.gov.uk/research/project_data/More.asp?I=OF0154

Summary

This is the final report of Defra project OF0154.
Under the European Union Regulation on the organic production of agricultural products (2092/91), crops raised in organic systems should be grown from organically produced seed or vegetative material. However, the supply of organic seed is limited in the UK and in Europe as a whole, and so by way of derogation, the EU Regulation permits the use of untreated, conventional seed on organic farms only when an appropriate organic variety cannot be sourced. At the start of this project, the derogation period was due to end on 31 December 2000; however, it was extended in June 1999 to 31 December 2003, after which the use of conventional seed will not be permitted on organic farms. To evaluate the current situation regarding organic seed availability, future demand for seed, and the problems restricting the development of an active organic seed production industry in the UK, the following tasks were undertaken with the aim of helping to facilitate the commercial use of organic seed and contributing to the ending of the use of conventional seed on organic farming systems.
Objectives
1. Assess the current and potential availability of organic seed, in the UK, elsewhere in Europe and further afield.
2. Develop a forecast of demand for organic seed in the UK over the next 5-10 years.
3. Determine the obstacles that need to be overcome and whether or not they can be dealt with through UK or European co-operation.
4. Highlight problems that need further research input.
5. Produce a report covering the availability of organically produced seed for commercial organic use, including details of species and varieties where further work is needed and recommendations for future actions.
Results
• There are 251 different varieties of organic seed commercially available to UK organic farmers and growers, 98% of which are vegetable varieties and 1% are cereal varieties. There are no grasses or herbage legumes available. Of the major crops, only 4% of the varieties most commonly used by UK organic producers are currently available as organic seed.
• A survey (with only an 11% reply rate) indicated a general European view that organic seed was in short supply in Europe.
• Based on 1997 data, demand for organic cereal seed is likely to double, demand for vegetable seed will triple, and demand for grassland seed will increase 7 or 8 times. With the current trend in organic seed production, these demands will not be met at the end of the derogation period unless a massive increase in production takes place.
• The problems associated with organic seed production expressed by fourteen seed companies in the UK could be broadly placed within three categories: 1) Marketing, 2) Technical and 3) Standards. Many were only perceived problems (not actual ones) that could be overcome through education, training and discussion.
• This study has shown that organic seed production must go ahead and that there are no real obstacles to cause delay.
Comments and recommendations for future actions
1. Press ahead with organic seed production.
2. More rigorous policing of the current derogation is required.
3. Make a rapid commitment not to extend the current derogation.
4. Major improvements are required in organic variety testing to identify which varieties should be produced as organic seed.
5. Further work is required on pest, disease and weed problems specifically related to organic seed production.
6. Research is required on the standards of other European countries and third countries.
7. MAFF census data should include organic agriculture and horticulture information.


EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:seed, crops, herbage, Europe, regulation, standards, derogation, markets, varieties, cultivars, OF0154
Subjects: Values, standards and certification > Regulation
Food systems > Markets and trade
Crop husbandry > Breeding, genetics and propagation
Research affiliation: UK > Organic Research Centre (ORC) - Elm Farm
UK > Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Deposited By: Defra, R&D Organic Programme
ID Code:8105
Deposited On:13 Apr 2006
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:33
Document Language:English
Status:Published
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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