[Market-farming] Is Micropropagation Organic?

Cyndi Norman cyndi at tikvah.com
Fri Nov 28 15:38:55 EST 2003

   From: "Paul A. Bock" <bockpa at plesh.com>
   Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2003 13:24:58 -0500

     I know that there is "organic" mushroom growers. 

Yes.  There is also organic mushroom spores available.  I have some plugs I
have yet to plant, but would like to soon.  My organic certification
application is almost done (the grower part is done save for the inspection
but I'm mostly doing this for the processing part and it's got a few holes)
and I'd love to add some mushrooms to the mix.

   And that these guys are probably limited from using fungicides, and
   pesticides, etc.  

Completely prohibited, yep.

   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. 

I know next to nothing about how to grow mushrooms and zero about how to
propagate them.  If capturing spores and growing them out on compost is
acceptable on the mushroom end of things, there's no reason that it would
not be okay on the organic end.  As long as the compost met organic

   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.

I'll have to take your word for it :)

   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.

The method sounds acceptable to me.  The issue would be the various
ingredients.  Compost and fertilizer do not have to be from certified
organic sources.  There are strict guidelines but it is okay to use plant
and animal material that is not certified organic.

Some chemicals are allowed in organic production.  They have to be on the
National List.  You can find this here:

It is also possible to petition the USDA to add certain chemicals or
processes to the list.  This happens generally when a new type of
production gets organic standards.  Like honey or fiber.  The original
rules were designed for regular plant agriculture.  They didn't think of

   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.

The techniques you describe are nothing like genetic engineering.  As you
say, you'd have to actually modify the genes of the plants, something that
is usually done by inserting genes from a completely different species
(fish into tomatoes, for example).

   So can micropropagation of plants be allowed as organic?

Assuming the ingredients are all allowed, it seems to me that the technique
would be okay, but this is just a guess.  To be absolutely sure, call your
local friend organic certifier.  I use CCOF (ccof.org) which is California
Certified Organic Farmers.  You can find a list of certifiers here:
http://www.ota.com/online%20directory/Directory%20nest.htm (choose a search
by Business Type then use the menu to choose Certifiers and add your state
if you wish--there are 39 listings total).


Petaluma, California           Zone 9 USDA; Zone 15 Sunset Western Garden Guide
Chemically sensitive/disabled - Organic Gardening only by choice and neccessity
                                                                   Cyndi Norman
Handcrafted organic soaps & cosmetics                          cyndi at tikvah.com
Organic bedding, safety equipment                        http://www.tikvah.com/
_________________ Owner of the Immune Website & Lists http://www.immuneweb.org/

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