Why Grow Certified Organic Seed

When farmers and gardeners choose to use organic seed they are supporting a healthier environment, since pesticide regulations often allow higher applications of chemicals on non-edible crops including seed. Using organic seed reduces the chemical footprint that conventional seed production creates. By growing organic seed you are also supporting seed a seed system that is responsive to the needs of organic growers.

The Canada Organic standards state that organic seed must be used except for when an organic option for the seed variety is not commercially available (CAN/CGSB-32.310-2015; Section 5.3.1). Organic certifiers are increasing scrutiny of non-organic seed use on certified organic farms. Growing certified organic seed is a valuable contribution to efforts to increase the quality, quantity, and diversity of commercially available organic seed.

Potential Benefits

Producing certified organic seed can open up new markets and increase revenue. There are a number of seed companies across Canada and internationally that only sell certified organic seed. If you want to grow and sell seed to a company that exclusively sells certified organic seed you will need to ensure you have the proper certification.

Customers often pay more for certified organic seed than they would for the same crop and variety for non-certified seed. You may also face less competition in the contract growing marketplace by being able to offer certified organic varieties that are not available elsewhere.

The Regulations

Any agricultural product that is labelled organic in Canada (including food for human consumption, livestock feed and seeds) is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Products must be certified organic according to the Canadian Organic Standards either through the Canada Organic Regime (COR) or for organic sales within BC only, the BC Certified Organic Program (BCCOP). Organic seed is produced by following the general principles and management standards for crop production.

Choosing a Certifier

Certifying bodies differ in the services they provide, their delivery styles, and in their pricing structures. The Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC), recommend that new producers contact a few different certifying bodies to compare programs before choosing one. Asking other farmers growing certified organic seed about their experiences with the different certifiers can be helpful in making your decision.

For products sold exclusively within BC you can find a regionally accredited certifier on the COABC website.

To access markets outside of BC, a CFIA-ISO accredited certification body is required that certifies to the Canada Organic Regime (COR). In BC there are three CBs that certify to the COR:

You can also choose a national certifier, such as:

Organic certification to the COR standard enables you to sell product as certified organic in any province or territory in Canada as well as a number of international markets, including the US, EU and Japan, under organic standard equivalency agreements.

If you are already certified for the BC Certified Organic Program with a certifier who is not COR-accredited, but you would like to sell your seed nationally or internationally, you can apply for a separate certification from a COR-accredited certifier. This would require some additional paperwork and additional cost, but avoids needing to change certifying bodies and likely would not require an additional inspection.

Additional resources