Can the market deliver 100% organic seed and varieties in Europe?
This paper considers European organic seed as a market in the sense of economic theory and explores factors impacting seed supply and demand. Under the organic regulation, farmers have to use seed multiplied in organic farming or apply for a derogation. We evaluated the functioning of the organic seed market, based on case studies of seed supply chains for arable, vegetable and forage crops; a farmer survey; and a status-quo analysis of the organic seed sector from the European LIVESEED project. The organic seed market is characterised by small size, great diversity of crops grown, unsolved technical problems for some crops and limited capacity of breeding varieties adapted to organic farming conditions. Demand vastly outstrips supply for most crops, but strong regional and sector differences were observed. A lack of information about availability and price for organic seed is likely to act as barrier to investment. Full enforcement of the regulation to use only organic seed might have unforeseen consequences, such as a reduction of agrobiodiversity in organic farming, rather than supporting an increase in supply. We conclude that the market alone is not likely to deliver 100% organic seed and government intervention is justified.