Agriculture: Seeds

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered at on 23 November 2023.

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Photo of Julian Sturdy Julian Sturdy Conservative, York Outer

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, how many emergency authorisations were granted to certified organic producers to use non-organic seed in each of the last five years; and if he will make an assessment of the reasons for the trend in the number of emergency authorisations granted in that period.

Photo of Mark Spencer Mark Spencer The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It is possible for non-organic seed (as part of a mix or entirely non-organic) to be used on certified organic farmland, but only under prescribed circumstances, and with prior authorisation in accordance with regulations. The annual non-organic seed authorisation reports produced by the Soil Association on behalf of Defra details the total number of authorisations in each of the past 5 years as follows:

  • 2022 – 17,314
  • 2021 – 16,598
  • 2020 – 13,106
  • 2019 – 15,783
  • 2018 – 15,828

In cases where, due to limited availability, a producer cannot source the required seeds in sufficient quantities, the organic regulation allows producers to use non-organic seeds. This is because it is recognised that sometimes, insufficient stocks may be available. Authorisations to use non-organic seed are granted only under specific circumstances and must be obtained in advance of their use. It is also worth highlighting that these authorisations cover all crop species and varieties used by organic farmers within the UK, each with unique variables as to availability of supply. Defra’s engagement with seed suppliers has not highlighted any systemic or structural issues with the supply of organic seed beyond those associated with the well-documented supply chain issues caused by the Covid pandemic and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

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