In answer to a PQ on 30th November 2020, my Noble Friend Lord Gardiner of Kimble used inaccurate wording in reference to the practice of using non-organic seeds in organic farming when there is no organic seed available.
I would like to correct the record as below.
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. 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 occasionally, 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.
We do not have data on the area of land in England for which such authorisations have been granted. We can, however, supply figures for the total number of authorisations and quantities involved for the UK as a whole.
Non-organic arable seed used by organic farmers: 2017 to 2019
Due to variations in year to year harvest and market conditions affecting availability there is still variation. The long-term trend, however, is that over recent years the number of authorisations needed has on average decreased, due to increasing availability of organic seeds.