Buying Certified Organic Heirloom Seeds
Helpful definitions that clearly define seed labels and let you make the right choice for your needs.
We sell Certified Organic Heirloom Seeds. The proof is the document listed here in blue or get a copy at the bottom of this page. This is how you can be sure the seeds you are buying are truly Certified Organic seeds. Remember "natural" is NOT Certified Organic. In fact we think it is important to define some terms because there seems to be a great deal of confusion about organic heirloom seeds. So, lets define a few things:
An Heirloom seed is: Generally defined as an open pollinated variety that has resulted from natural selection rather than a controled hybridization process. Some sources say an "heirloom seed" variety must be at least 50 years of age to be considered an heirloom and this topic still seems to be hotly debated. Seed saved from an heirloom produces plants with the same characteristics as the parent.
Open Pollinated: Open pollinated seed varieties are those that result from pollination by insects, wind, self-pollination or other natural forms of pollination. If you saved seeds from open-pollinated varieties and grow them they will come true, meaning that the plans will produce plants with characteristics or traits like the parent plant from which the seeds were harvested (Assuming they did not cross pollinate with another of the same family. To learn more about this we recommend these books that teach seed saving techniques and basic plant genetics.)
Certified Organic: When you see the word "Certified Organic" on a seed packet, it has distinct legal meaning. It can ONLY be used for seed by growers who are in compliance with all the detailed rules and regulations specified by the USDA's National Organic Program. While other countries have their own systems, in the US, organic regulations specify that the land in which crops are grown cannot have had prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest, and the operation must be managed according to an Organic System Plan that is approved and regularly inspected by a USDA accredited certifier. Organic seeds are grown strictly without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides; the use of sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering are also prohibited.
Hybrid: Hybrid / F1 or first generation hybrid occurs when a plant breeder selects two pure lines (plants that produce identical offspring when self-pollinated) and cross-pollinates them to produce a seed which combines desirable characteristics or traits from both parents. Common traits plant breeders work to increase in hybrids might include, for example, disease resistance, uniformity, earliness or color. Hybrid seeds are often more expensive due to the high cost in production. Seeds can be saved from hybrids, however plants grown from that seed will not come true; in other words, may lack the desirable characteristics of the parents. An example of a hybrid is Sungold tomatoes. Sustainable Seed Company does not sell hybrid seeds, only open pollinated seeds.
GE (Genetically Engineered) Some people use the term GMO or Genetically Modified Organism. Genetic Engineering describes the high-tech methods used in recent decades to incorporate genes directly into an organism. The only way scientists can transfer genes between organisms that are not sexually compatible is to use recombinant DNA techniques. The plants that result do no occur in nature; they are "Genetically Engineered" by human intervention and manipulation. Sustainable Seed Company does not sell GE seeds and are highly opposed to this technology.
"Natural": Unlike organic, which has a clear set of standards, the FDA has never actually created any regulations for what "natural" actually means. On food labels USDA allows the use of the term "natural" to be used in meat and poultry labeling on products that contain no artificial ingredients or added color. The product also must be only minimally processed. The label must explain the use of the term natural, for example, no added coloring; minimally processed. There is not a definition for seed that we are aware of. There is Certified Naturally Grown. Certified Naturally Grown is based on the "Participatory Guarantee System" model of certification. These requirements are much less strict than Certified Organic. So currently the word "natural" or "100% natural" means a whole lot of nothing on a seed label.
"100% Non-GMO" (Genetically Modified Organism): We have seen this pop-up recently on many seed sites and we have had many phone calls asking us about this. We don't believe anyone can say this with a clear conscious or be "100%" correct. First off, how do they know this? Did they test the seed in a genetic lab like Genetic ID as reputable seed companies do? Ask them! Do they even know which crops have genetically engineered counter parts and could have possible contamination? Do any of us? Many crops are being developed we are not aware of. A number of GE crops have already been introduced, but there are many others that are being grown and tested all over the world. Wheat is one that is being tested, but still hasn't been currently released.
If seed companies making these claims were testing they would discover that different samples of corn for instance could give very different results from the same bag depending on which seeds were sampled. Another words you could open a 50# bag of corn, take a sample and get GE contamination. However, the next sample may not contain any contamination at all depending on the percent/level of contamination and a number of other factors. We have seen this happen more than once. So, how could you claim that this seed (or any seed) is "100% GMO Free"? You will notice we say "Please be aware that a negative test result, while not guaranteeing genetic purity, greatly improves your chances that the seed is not contaminated with Genetically Engineered traits . PCR Analysis tests are costly, but we are committed to our stance on GE contamination in our seed." However, we would never claim that it is "100% GMO Free" How could you?
Even if the seed company grew their own seed (VERY few do these days) you still could not say that you were "100%" sure there was not any GE contamination. For example we know that GE corn pollen drifts for miles on the trade winds. Trucks spill small amounts of Genectically Engineered soy and other crops along roadways regularly. GE Canola is now found growing in the wild. Planes drop-seed hundreds of acres from the sky in the case of Genetically Engineered rice. We now have entire forests of Genetically Engineered trees. Scientist do not completely understand the level of GE contamination in our environment and what effects it has. This topic is hotly debated and the idea of a seed company making a blanket statement that they have "100% GE free" seed is absurd.
Treated Seed: These seeds could be treated with pesticides or fungicides. You would not necessarily know that the seeds were treated unless you bought certified organic seeds. Current rules for the USDA certified organic program prohibit the use of treated seed. So just because it says "all natural" or even "untreated" what does that mean? Who certifies that? As you have just read "all natural" or "natural" literally means nothing other than fluff or fancy words on a seed packet. Many seeds that are imported into this country are treated/fumigated for pest and disease in quarantine. Those seeds then go on to be put in pretty packages with all sorts of words and pretty pictures that basically mean a whole lot of nothing! So now you have a little education about seeds. We trust you can make better informed choices and buy from certified heirloom organic seed companies. All legally certified organic seed companies will have a copy of their organic seed certification. Ask for it!
Need proof we are Certified Organic? Click the link below for a copy of our USDA Organic Seed Certification.
For customers needing the Organic Certificate for their own records, click here to download a pdf.
I have a question on the fall garden collection. Are the seeds packaged separately in the reusable bag or are they all mixed up. I am a fairly new gardener and only know a couple seeds on sight. Is there a guide? I'd also like to get this as a gift for friends but not necessarily if there's no telling which seed is which.
I have a question: On your site you recommend planting Cayuse oats as a natural trellis for peapods. I have ordered both and wanted to ask: Do you need to plant the oats earlier than the peapods or at the same time? If earlier, how much earlier? Thanks. Hope to hear from you.
|Mark Valleroy Jr.||
Just recieved my seeds in the mail today! Great speed cannot wait to start my Australian Brown onion seeds the 1st of January:) under lights of course. Love the web page nicely done and thanks for the extra pack of cabbage seeds. A very satisfied customer!
I ordered from your company in the spring and was very excited to get my garden stared this summer. I believe in buying and growing local as much as possible and you have helped by now giving me the options of growing a garden like my grandmothers did, with seed they saved year after year. My cucumber patch out did itself this year and I truly believe it was because of the type of seeds. Everything else I planted was also great too. And I must say that everything had a great taste to it, reminder me of when I was little. Thank you and I will be reordering new items for next year.
The prices and speed of delivery are outstanding. My crop is in full harvest right now and everything tastes absolutely amazing. Germination and yields have been incredible. You won't find a better product or company so no need to shop around. I'm looking forward to next year already to try out some new varieties. Thank You for the great harvest, you have a great company and I will be ordering from you again.
Just wanted to let you know I received my seeds, and I want to thank you on how quick my order was picked and shipped to me. I had order some seeds from another seed company in Missouri about a month ago still no seeds and no response from several...Arnold
I've heard good things about your company! THANK YOU!Cathy
Just wanted to say a BIG THANK YOU for customizing my safety seed package and for all the wonderful info. IMary
Thank you so much for your prompt service. I love what you're doing and hope to become a regular customer!Mary ann
Just wanted to say thank you for the free tomtato seeds! It was very kind and generous. I like many people these days am struggling, hoping that a backyard veggie garden will help out this year. Your free seeds are a very welcome gift. Just wanted...Deanna
I think your service is great, your selection is amazing, and your prices do not break the bank! So I am looking forward to doing business with you in the future.Marianna
Thanks for the speedy delivery. The wheat has been planted and the majority has taken hold... already 4" high and its only been planted for 9 days :) I can't wait to plant the other stuff next spring. I told others about your companySam
I just recently ordered seeds from you for our school garden in Oakland. The reached us so fast and we are very happy. The kids were especially happy about the free watermelon seeds. Thank you so much. When we need more seeds, we will definately...Ms. Sally
Thanks. The marigold seeds i brought from you last year did very well and there is another fact I wanted to share with you, which is that the Kamut wheat did very well in my poorish soil that i did not fertilize for it!Rose
"We love your seed company! Thanks for providing the best seed!"Florida Urban Gardener