Organic seed production-Issues and strategies

L Meghachandra Singh
Contd from previous issue
However, the shortage of organic seeds still remained as a main constraint in expanding the organic crops. In UK, about 250 different varieties of organic seeds are commercially available, out of these 98% are vegetable varieties and 1 % are cereal varieties.
Of the major crops only 4% of the varieties, which are most commonly used by UK organic producers are currently available as organic seed.
The North Eastern hill region, though has a wide range of crop germplasms, has not received much of the commercial benefits of their utilization. At this age of ownership rights and global free trade, many landraces still are being cultivated here since time immemorial without any improvement. These might be resistant to many pest and diseases in their specific micro-/macro-climate conditions. The question is whether these location specific varieties, would all be liked by the market, both local and outside. On the other hand, genetically modified (GM) varieties and hybrids using male sterilities are restricted in organic agriculture.
Thus, the issue is should we invest in breeding organic varieties for the outside market while we have a very few non organic varieties for our own food demand or should we depend on the expensive imported organic seeds whose local adaptabilities are not certain?
Another issue is should our organic producers be required to use Organic Seed only ? In most of the other developed countries use of non-organic seeds had been allowed unless organic seeds were available. However, complaint is that, this led to further delay in developing organic seed production programmes.
From the First World Organic Seed Conference, Rome 2004, no consensus of what organic seed meant was derived at, rather it include all: i) seed grown according to organic production methods, ii) seed bred according to organically accepted methods, iii) seed varieties adapted to prevailing organic agriculture conditions of low- external inputs (including both older varieties and newly developed seeds). Whether organic seed was certified or not, did not seem to matter to organic farmers.
The main bottleneck towards organic seed production in the North Eastern region remained to be the production and supply of quality seeds. Farmers in the region are facing this problem due to lack of formal seed system. Seed certification is also a process certification like that of organic produce.
(To be contd)