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What is considered “Certified Hemp Seed”?

Certified seed has recently received much fanfare in the hemp industry. While true certified seed has a huge value-added benefit to farmers, there is a tremendous amount of misinformation surrounding certified seed.

Seed certification is a quality assurance program in which the production, harvesting, and cleaning of seed of registered varieties adheres to strict regulations to ensure purity and quality. Seed certification regulations are crop-specific and are developed and published by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA), for the United States, with Global members from Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The implementation and oversight of the AOSCA standards is handled by state agencies, such as the California Crop Improvement Association (CCIA); CCIA, and other state certifying agencies, follow the AOSCA regulations and inspect each certified crop several times to monitor quality assurance practices, such as isolation distance from other plantings of the same crop, absence of specific prohibited noxious weeds, roguing of off-type plants, proper clean-out of threshers/combines, seed cleaning and conditioning by a CCIA approved facility, and seed inspection by a seed lab adhering to rules set by the Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA).

There are four seed certification classes: breeder, foundation, registered, and certified. Each class has its own requirements, standards, and tag color. Certified seed will have an official blue tag that is attached to every seed bag from the lot. Farmers mostly have access to the certified class.

Some of the confusion surrounding certified seed may be owed to the similarity of the AOSCA and AOSA acronyms. In order to be compliant with the Federal Seed Act, all seed must be accurately labeled with purity and germination rates; the crop-specific methodology and standards for purity and germination rates are established by AOSA. Beyond seed certification requiring seed inspection and purity/germination tests be performed by a seed lab utilizing AOSA standards, AOSCA and AOSA are otherwise entirely separate.

Another source of confusion for seed certification is variety registration by state governed Department of Agriculture. Some states, especially those with well-established industrial hemp pilot programs like Colorado and Oregon, do not require variety registration to simply grow a variety. Many other states that have more recent industrial hemp programs either require variety registration on a cultivation site-specific basis, such as California, or require variety registration with the state before that variety can be farmed there, such as Texas. Receiving variety registration approval from a specific state Department of Agriculture is completely independent from seed certification. That being said, the first step of seed certification is variety registration approval, which can occur via a plant variety protection or patent, an official state certifying agency, OECD, or the AOSCA national variety review board.

There is a relatively small amount of certified hemp seed lots that have been produced in the US. Until very recently all of these certified seed lots were all dioecious or monoecious hemp seed, not feminized hemp seed. While there are draft guidelines, AOSCA is yet to publish final official standards for the production of certified feminized hemp seed. Some states are pre-emptively engaging in feminized seed certification now in hopes that the draft guidelines do not change when the final AOSCA standards are published. One such state is Georgia; although hemp cultivation in Georgia has only been recently approved, the Georgia Crop Improvement Association (GCIA) has been very proactive in the certification of feminized seed lots grown in neighboring states by companies who are headquartered in Georgia and performing their own variety registration approval. The GCIA is foregoing the traditional route and certifying the certified class seed from vetted clonal varieties of inbred lines that have sufficient data to support claims of distinctness and stability. Oregon, via Oregon State University’s Seed Certification Service, on the other hand, appears to be subscribing more to the standard generational classes of production and looking to the AOSCA national variety review board for final approval of variety registration.

Certified feminized hemp seed is finally upon us; it is very much a burgeoning service that will likely undergo modification over time. It is important to understand both the status of the certification process as well as what certified seed is and is not.

State hemp variety registration is not the same as registered or certified hemp seed by AOSCA members using their guidelines.

Seed lots tested for germination and purity by an AOSA member laboratory, are not certified seed.

There are four classes of certified seed: Breeder, Foundation, Registered, and Certified. Each class has its own requirements in accordance with AOSCA guidelines.

When in doubt, look for the blue tag. Each certified seed bag will have an official blue tag attached. If it’s not there, then it’s not certified.

Beacon Hemp is in the early stages of AOSCA variety registration and certified seed production in both Oregon and California.

What is considered “Certified Hemp Seed”? Certified seed has recently received much fanfare in the hemp industry. While true certified seed has a huge value-added benefit to farmers, there is a

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The Georgia Crop Improvement Association is one of 44 crop improvement associations in the United States and is a member of the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA).

Only those companies that have complete confidence in their product participate in third party certification programs.

CERTIFIED HEMP SEEDS

The Georgia Crop Improvement Association is one of 44 crop improvement associations in the United States and is a member of the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA).

Only those companies that have complete confidence in their product participate in third party certification programs.

Who is AOSCA?

The Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) is dedicated to assisting growers and suppliers in the production, identification, distribution and promotion of certified hemp products.

AOSCA Certification is a 3rd party auditing and inspection program that is designed to assure growers and buyers that varieties are tested for seed quality and are true to the variety description.

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