Seed Section - Overview of the Seed Regulatory Program
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Overview of the Seed Regulatory Program

The Indiana Seed Law, IC 15-4-1, was first enacted in 1921 to serve as a basic "truth-in-labeling" law designed to provide consumers with important information relating to product quality and identity. The law regulates both agricultural and vegetable seeds sold in the state. "Agricultural" seeds are those of legumes, grasses, forages, cereals, and fiber crops. Included in this category are lawn and turf seeds. "Vegetable" seeds are those of crops grown commercially and in home gardens and are commonly known as vegetables. Seeds grown strictly for their ornamental value (flower seeds, for example) are not included.

The law requires all seeds to be labeled truthfully regarding their identification, purity, and viability. Basic quality information relating to germination and weed seed contamination are required to provide the purchaser important information to make intelligent purchases. The law also classifies certain weed seeds as "noxious weeds" and restricts their presence in seed offered for seeding purposes.

Inspection Program:

The Inspection Staff (pdf, 307kb) of the Indiana State Chemist and Seed Commissioner provides marketplace surveillance throughout the state through inspectional visits to all retail sales outlets offering seed products for sale. These products routinely consist of various agricultural crop seeds, forage seeds, lawn seeds and vegetable seeds. Samples are obtained through official sampling methods and are analyzed in the state seed laboratory to determine compliance with labeled guarantees.

Companies authorized through Indiana Seed Permits for seed distribution currently number 415. A staff of six field inspectors make over 1,500 inspectional visits to individual seedsmen, dealers, and distributors offering seed products for sale. Approximately 90 different agricultural and vegetable crop kinds are sampled and inspected each year. Samples are collected from over 360 individual companies responsible for the labeling of such seed distributed through the numerous dealer-distributor locations in the state. Samples are typically collected from over 450 different dealer/seedsman locations in the state. The State Seed Laboratory examines over 16,000 guarantees made for these products. Such guarantees include % Pure Seed, % Inert Matter, % Other Crop Seed, % Weed Seed, Noxious Weeds, and Germination claims.

Inspectional Coverage:

The primary activities of seed law enforcement in Indiana are inspection of seed products in the marketplace and subsequent sampling of those products which are offered for sale to the consumer to determine compliance with label guarantees. Each year, several thousand different lots of agricultural and vegetable seeds are inspected and sampled as a part of the overall monitoring process of the industry. During the sampling and inspection of the various seed lots encountered in the marketplace, seed lot size is documented for each sample obtained. This information is used to assess inspectional coverage of the various seed "crop kinds" offered for sale. Information relating to seed distribution by seedsman is also used to target those "major" distributors for proper coverage in relation to overall share of the market in the state.

Historically, certain seed crops are more prone to "quality" violations (weed seed contamination, pure seed percentage, germination, etc.) than others. Hence, as the figures in the following tables indicate, we concentrate more inspectional work towards those kinds where problems are more likely to occur. This is evident in the figures shown for inspectional coverage of crops such as alfalfas, clovers, and grasses.

Testing Program:

The Indiana State Seed Laboratory functions as the testing arm of the Office of the State Chemist and Seed Commissioner to verify seed quality in reference to label claims made for seed being offered for sale. Official testing is performed on all inspector-drawn samples taken for enforcement purposes. The laboratory also offers a "service testing program" for all Indiana residents and consumers who wish to have saved seed tested to evaluate overall quality. Testing fees vary depending on sample type and number of components to be tested.

The Indiana State Seed Laboratory is an active member of the Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA) and the methods used for sample preparation and analysis in the laboratory are those approved by the Association. Under such "Rules For Testing Seeds" a standard analysis has been developed in conjunction with the enforcement of labeling laws that furnishes information as to the composition of the seed sample and the ability of the seed to produce plants. The rules, which are routinely followed, summarize and make available the accumulated experience of seed analysts.

Inspected Seed Lots Out of Compliance:

Under the most perfect conditions of sampling and testing seeds, some variation will occur in the purity, germination, and noxious weed seed results if repeated tests are made. Tolerances adopted by the Association of Official Seed Analysts and policy guidelines are applied to test results to compensate for sampling and analytical variations.

If the test result on a sample is below the guarantee by any amount equal to or less than the allowance, the sample is considered correctly labeled. If the deficit is between one and two times this value, the infraction is considered to be a "minor violation" of the law, and the dealer is required to change the labeled claim on the unsold portion of the lot to correspond to the analysis found by the test. If the result is more than twice the allowance it is termed a "serious violation" and the seed is ordered to be removed from sale until relabeling is approved. Seed lots found to be mislabeled with respect to labeling requirements under the law are termed "label violations" and the dealer is expected to make appropriate corrections where necessary.