What seeds are at risk?
Currently commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include soy (94%), cotton (90%), canola (90%), sugar beets (95%), corn (88%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), zucchini and yellow squash (over 24,000 acres). (Number in parentheses represents the estimated percent that is genetically modified.) Blue corn cross-pollinates with current GM corn varieties. And now, with the sugar beet growers going GM, there is the possibility of cross-pollination into other beet varieties and near relatives, such as chard. All but soy cross-pollinates.
It is unlikely that other seed varieties, whether organic or not are GM, though contamination may occur by cross pollination or other means from experiment and sometimes publicly undisclosed GM test plots throughout the nation.
Purchasing Non-GMO Seed
You can get non-GMO seed from companies who have signed the Safe (non-GMO) Seeds Pledge. Click here for a list of heritage, conventional and some organic sources.
Certified organic seed varieties are, by definition, GMO-free. The Organic Seed Alliance maintains a list of Sources of Organic Seeds.
Why Buy Organic Seed?
According to the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association:
There are numerous reasons for supporting the continued development of organic seed production as well as supporting programs of plant breeding for organic production. The underlying basis for organic agriculture is the concern and interaction of the ecological effects of the inputs into our food supply. The production of conventional seed requires heavier application of chemical pesticides than their food crop counterpart as seed crops are generally in the ground longer, and being a non-food crop, the allowable levels of application are much higher. These include methyl bromide, endosulfan (both of which are banned in the EU and much of the world), metaldehyde and many other highly toxic chemicals that damage air and water quality, biological diversity, and human health. Specialty seed production takes place in highly specialized regions, such as the Skagit and Willamette Valleys of Washington and Oregon. Is it fair for those of us in organic agriculture to want our own farms and environments to be as free of toxins as possible, but expect seed production communities to carry a heavy toxic load so that we can plant cheap conventional seed?
However, there is a better reason for supporting investment in and usage of organic seed than the prevention of ecological contamination. Organic agriculture as a whole will find even greater success as we develop truly organic cultivars organic not just because the seed was produced on organic ground and sold by a company certified to handle organic inputs but cultivars adapted for low inputs, that exhibit elasticity in the face of environmental extremes, enhance the health of local food systems by extending seasons, increase crop quality (including processing), and that have improved nutritional content. Organic seed adds to the value of organic farming by focusing breeding and selection on traits that are economically and agronomically important to the organic grower and ultimately to the organic consumer, traits that are often neglected in conventional breeding programs.
Certified organic growers are not allowed to have GMO’s in their seeds. Further, these following members of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Alliance (OSGATA) have signed onto a code of ethics and are engaged in preserving the integrity of seed above and beyond profit-market interest. OSGATA develops, protects and promotes the organic seed trade and its growers, and assures that the organic community has access to excellent quality organic seed, free of contaminants and adapted to the diverse needs of local organic agriculture.
In addition to not allowing GMOs in their seeds, members of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Alliance (OSGATA) have signed onto a code of ethics and are engaged in preserving the integrity of seed above and beyond profit-market interest. OSGATA develops, protects and promotes the organic seed trade and its growers, and assures that the organic community has access to excellent quality organic seed, free of contaminants and adapted to the diverse needs of local organic agriculture.