Ask a Question forum: What Are the Benefits of Using Organic Seeds

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Jan 2, 2017 8:04 AM CST
Please be lovely and help
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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Jan 2, 2017 8:36 AM CST
One benefit would be if you are a grower who is certified organic you may need to use organic seeds to maintain your certification (with some exceptions, depending on the organization). You may be able to get different cultivars from the commonly available non-organic ones. Other than that I think it depends on your philosophy about the environment. Organic doesn't mean no pesticides have been used at all but where their use is a concern some consumers may be more comfortable that approved pesticides/amendments etc. for organic gardening are all that have been used. Also you may prefer not to handle seeds that have been coated with fungicide for those plants where that treatment is typical.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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Jan 2, 2017 4:47 PM CST
I think that the alleged benefit is mainly in the eye of the beholder. Many people feel very strongly about "ANY CHEMICALS" whether or not the amount is measurable or of any concern n to nutritionists and toxicologists. If you feel that way, "organic" matters to you.

Granted that many commercial seeds are pre-treated with a fungicide so they don't rot before germinating. If you buy "organic seeds", you know that nay pre-treating chemical was approved by the organic certification agency. If you trust them more than the FDA, EPA and farmers, buying organic seeds makes you feel safer that they were pre-treated with a less toxic fungicide, or none at all. But I would have said: "If you don't want a funguicide, buy untreated seeds".

1. I've heard the claim that even microscopic amounts of neo-nicotenoids have bad effects on insects that merely land on a plant.

Personally, after the few molecules that might have clung to a seed are diluted into an entire plant, I don't think the final the concentration could be enough to affect anything. But my not thinking something means no more than someone else's opposite feeling.

For any pesticide other than neo-nics, I think the burden of proof is totally on the person who claims that pico-grams in a seed (10^-12 gram), diluted to atto-grams (10^-18 g) per kilogram in the plant, can affect anything.

It would be interesting to do the math and try to calculate the number of molecules of something, per acre, added because the seed crop had been grown with some fertilizer or an herbicide.

2. Maybe people that care passionately about organic gardening don't want to support ANY companies that grow seed crops in other ways. Like boycotting companies that do something you oppose, to make a political/economic point. Or maybe it's a matter of principle analogous to a religious duty.

I assume the reasoning there would be that growing seed crops conventionally "poisons the land" and hence is worthwhile fighting against.

3. As Sue said, if you want to be certified organic, you have to prove compliance with all the rules of the certifying organization you select, whether you agree with all those rules or not.

There would be a monetary motivation to getting the formal certification, since there are many other expenditures required to grow organically. To get the financial return (of being able to charge twice as much, or sell smaller, blemished fruits), you would need the organic certification approval.

4. Speculatively, maybe some people are hoping that selection during seed crop grow-out will cause genetic drift in directions favorable to organic practices, or unfavorable to conventional practices. But then, wouldn't that alter the standard cultivars into something other than what is expected from the name?

And besides, wouldn't it take dozens to hundreds of years to get a detectable amount of genetic drift without actively out-crossing before selection?

5. Like the "safe seed pledge", "organic" adds an extra layer of confidence about genetically modified crops.

You CAN'T buy GMO seeds without going to wholesalers and signing away your first-born children. CAN'T. None are sold to anyone but large farmers. However, many people fell better buying seeds from vendors that promise not to be selling them anything they CAN'T sell them anyway ("safe seed pledge").

Seeds labelled "organic" probably were accepted by a cert authority that also promises not to sell any GMO seeds to hobbyists. So that also, like the safe seed pledge, assures consumers that the seeds are also not genetically modified. I think that's a "feel good" distinction that presently makes no functional difference at all.

However, things like the safe seed pledge do "send a message" that there are many people so upset about GMOs that they will go out of their way and pay extra to get a label that confirms what they already know. And it might BE a good time to "send messages", if you want to influence growers and politicians away from GMOs.

(My opinion is that climate change and population growth will soon be so advanced that everyone will know that we NEED GMO crops to prevent wide-spread famines. If that turns out not to be true, then trying to push everyone but Red China away from GMOs at this time might serve some purpose.)

6. I'm watching the thread to see what reasons people really do have. For example, something like "Plants grown with more-than-adequate Phosphate in the soil have fewer mycorrhiza. Seeds from such plants might germinate with fewer MR, or attract fewer MRs, for unknown reasons."

I have no idea whether there's any truth to that, and my understanding is that MRs are NOT carried from year to year in the seeds, but instead in the soil. They need to "re-infect" to roots in every generation (I think).

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