As we place our orders for the few packets of seeds needed to populate a smallish garden, I began to question, why buy organic seeds? We are fortunate to have three in-state companies to choose from: Johnny’s, Pinetree, and Fedco. All three companies run their own seed trials, while Fedco states that they also cultivate relationships with many small farmers in sourcing their inventory. And all three offer a selection of organic seeds. Why pay a little more for seeds that are grown free of chemicals? I questioned whether plants grown from inorganic seeds will be just as organic as the methods used to raise them. I thought I’d put the question to a google search.
What turned up were several reasons for choosing organic seeds over inorganic. The reasons seemed to ditto each other from one site to another. Three main ideas were presented. One stated that plants grown for seed production may require heavy use of chemicals. These may include herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. An argument could be made that, to produce seed, a plant grows for a longer time. In the case of biennials such as kale and parsley, the plants must be grown into their second year. This would then translate into a heavier use of chemical additives than for plants grown for crops.
Yet another reason given was that organic seeds are better adapted to organic growing methods than those that were subjected to chemicals. None of the sources indicated the presence of studies to prove this point. I would want to see a study that might involve a range of food plants. The comparison would then look at any differences in how well the plants got started, the general health of the growing plants, and any difference in yields. Without studies, I’m not convinced.
A final reason addressed ethical concerns. Buying organic seeds is one of many ways to encourage organic growing in general. This reason is one that I wholeheartedly agree with. It is certainly a wonderful thing to encourage organic farming and gardening in as many ways as possible. Knowing that our foods are free of chemicals is one advantage to organic growing, with another being that organic is far, far better for the environment and therefore the ability of our planet to sustain life.
Are there downsides to organic seeds? Only one popped up in my research. These seeds are often more expensive. This seemed like a minor point especially since we buy so few. It would be great to have access to research documenting how organic differs from inorganic throughout the life cycle of the plant. Until this kind of research becomes available, we can choose to buy organic on the basis of issues of sustainability, and in hopes that they will indeed present improved performance. Even if it means paying a bit more. -jmm