Protecting Organic Seed Integrity is intended to serve as a comprehensive resource for those involved in the organic seed trade to take the necessary measures and precautions when it comes to keeping organic seed free from genetically engineered (GE) contamination. Both the U.S. National Organic Standards and the Canadian Organic Standards prohibit the use or presence of GE traits or organisms in organic production practices.
When it comes to approved GE crops, it is unfortunately the organic producers who assume the risk, responsibility and costs of ensuring that GE contamination does not enter into their production system. While acknowledging that this is an unfair burden placed upon those connected to the organic seed industry, this book offers a host of best management practices and seed-testing suggestions in an effort to minimize the production inconveniences and costs related to contamination avoidance measures or lost market share. Discussed are all foreseeable means of GE contamination to at-risk organic seed and crops, indicating the degree of risk associated with each and how those risks might be mitigated. A significant amount of material is presented on testing seed for GE contamination, as genetic testing is the only qualitative means of assurance that organic seed is “GE-free”. The latest scientific testing procedures and their respective advantages and limitations are described in detail that remains understandable, and seed lot sampling techniques are also covered for various scales of production. Knowing how and when to draw a representative sample is essential to acquiring reliable test results.
Of particular value, the book presents detailed profiles for the eight at-risk crop kinds for which GE crops are currently in production in the U.S. Each profile neatly summarizes the prevalence of GE crops and approved traits for that particular crop kind, along with important considerations pertaining to plant biology, regions grown, the relative risk of GE contamination, possible roles of wild relatives, best management practices, and key testing considerations.
While the OSGATA has published this book for American organic producers, it could serve Canadian producers very well too. The lists of at-risk crop kinds between the USA and Canada are not identical, but there is much overlap. Further, many of the best management practices mentioned are not crop-specific and could be applied more broadly. With a bit of research, one could use the format and content of the crop profiles listed to generate equivalents for those at-risk crops in Canada that are not covered in the book.
Overall, this book would be a very helpful resource for those in, or reliant upon, the organic seed industry in Canada. When it comes to understanding the threats of GE contamination for the various at-risk crop kinds, organic producers could benefit from reading this material; the OSGATA did a very good job at researching and distilling the relevant information, so you wouldn’t have to.
Hardcopies of the book are available at www.cog.ca. An electronic version of the book, opened using Adobe Reader, is also available free of charge from www.osgata.org (a donation to the organization is, of course, welcomed).