Sourcing and Using Organic Seed

Liz Sarno, UNL Extension – Organic Project Coordinator


If you farm or market garden organically you need to use organically produced seeds: National Organic Program (NOP) 205.204 Seeds and planting stock practice standard.

(a) The producer must use organically grown seeds, annual seedlings, and planting stock: Except, That,

(1) Nonorganically produced, untreated seeds and planting stock may be used to produce an organic crop when an equivalent organically produced variety is not commercially available.

Commercially available does not mean - if you can’t find organically produced seeds at a price you want to pay then you use an untreated, non-GMO, conventionally produced seeds. Using organic seeds includes all seeds “cover crops” and seeds used for “green manure plow-down” production as well. The good news is that sourcing organically produced is becoming easier. Because of the demand from farmers and gardeners, more companies are producing seeds organically.

Why use organically produced seeds - the real question should be “why use a non-treated seed that was conventionally produced?” Yes, if you cannot find an equivalent organic seed for a crop or forage you want to produce, you will have to use an untreated, non GMO conventionally bred variety. However, if a farmer feels they have a conventionally bred corn variety that they have used for years and cannot find an organically produced one that is comparable perhaps they have not looked lately at what is out there. There are many good corn varieties that are organically produced and reasonably priced.   Another reason is the integrity of the organic system will be kept easier to preserve from the start by using organically produced seed. I know at our UNL research stations we our testing winter wheat varieties on organic farm ground that is managed organically to give farmers a better representation of which varieties would work best in their organic farming operation.


I have included several websites for sourcing organic seeds:


Seed Search - Organic Seed Sourcing: http://

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas -ATTRA:

Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources – Organic: