[Market-farming] Is Micropropagation Organic?

Paul A. Bock bockpa at plesh.com
Wed Nov 5 13:24:58 EST 2003


Hi everybody,
  I have a question that is stumping me.  I imagine that somewhere there is
something written that would clarify this question.

  I know that there is "organic" mushroom growers.  And that these guys are
probably limited from using fungicides, and pesticides, etc.  To keep
competing fungi and molds and bacteria from eating their mushroom crop.  Now
these guys probably don't propagate their mushrooms by capturing spores by
doing a spore print and then "growing" them out on some compost.  This would
be the equivalent of planting seeds.  Everything I have heard of mushroom
growing is that everybody uses sterile culture techniques on agar which
eventually "seed" cultures on grain or sawdust to produce spawn, that then
is "seeded" into a compost or substrate where the fungi grows and lives
until it produces fruit, " a mushroom".  And that the "seed" that is
exchanged commercially they way a farmer may buy seed is test tubes or
petris dishes of the original fungus growing on some sort of Agar.

  What I want to know is if micropropagation is considered organic.  This is
basically using a technique similar to how mushroom fungi are grown on agar
substrates.  This is my understanding of micropropagation.  When a plant is
in the form of a seed, the cells of the plant are still unspecialized (no
roots, leaves, or stem, etc.) and also when a plant becomes injured
specialized cells in the location of the injury can become unspecialized and
become used to form a callus to fix the injury.  This is where scab on
potatoes comes from, certain blemishes on fruit, etc.  Now these
unspecialized cells can be grown out on agar the way mushroom fungi are.  a
lot of special chemicals are used to feed the small plant embryos.  In fact
you can rapidly propagate a plant this way.  Grow plant cells out on a petri
dish and cut the organism and the medium they are growing on up into 100
pieces, and boom!, you have 100 plants.  Then they use special chemicals
and/or hormones to get a plant to sprout and produce a leaf.  Then they use
different chemicals to start the plant to produce roots.  Apparently this is
where a lot of those "plug" trays come from.  I first thought they were from
seed.

Well, this is a gray area for me, because on one hand we are very close to
the same practice as propagating plants with cuttings or parts of tubers
like potatoes.  But on the other hand, we are very close to the same
techniques used to genetically modify plant DNA.  Specifically  this is just
a propagation technique, i.e. cloning, but we would not be modifying the
genes of the plants.

So can micropropagation of plants be allowed as organic?

Paul Bock
Stone Gully




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