Dangerous Seed On American Market

DangerousSeed on American Market


International Specialty Supply

May 23, 2000

Thereis much scarified seed that has made its way to the US market from Australia. Not all seed from Australia is scarified, but we sampled some seed that was notsuitable for sprouting.  Some lots you may want to watch out for are 9069,9032, and 9123.  They may have numbers that followthem.

Accordingto Dr Rob Wick’s small experiment (see “Sanitation of Injured AlfalfaSeed”, Dr Robert Wick, Nov. 5, 1999 SproutNet), 91.7% or more ofinjured seed is not affected by sanitation.  He feels that even a smallpercentage of injured seed poses a threat.

Thereare some seed suppliers in the US market who are intentionally selling scarifiedseed because it can be purchased at a fraction of the cost of non-scarifiedseed.

Doesscarified seed sprout as well as non-scarified seed?  Indeed, possibly evenbetter.  The damaged seed coat allows quick and even water penetration ofall seed.  Consequently the seed produces a consistent product and becauseall live seed germinates together, a good yield.

Thereare some suppliers who are telling growers “all alfalfa seed isscarified”.  In a very literal sense this may be true.  Anythingthat reduces the hard seed count, including aging, is called scarifying.  However,saying “all alfalfa seed is scarified” is disguising the fact that theseed they are selling was scarified in a way that it cannot be properlysanitized.

Bluntlyput, many seed suppliers are selling cheep, potentially lethal, seed.

Sproutgrowers need to start asking for a seed test that includes crack count. This count will tell you approximately the percentage of seed that cannotbe properly sanitized.

Aneasy way to determine the quality of seed is to look at in under a 10xmicroscope.  These can be bought at a hobby shop, toy store, or RadioShack.  You won’t see cracked seed under 10x, only chipped or broken seed.  Foreach damaged seed you see, double it, because you are only seeing oneside of each seed.  If you see more than about 2-3 chipped ordamaged seed per 100 seeds, the seed is unacceptable for sprouting.  Forevery visibly damaged seed there is at least one cracked seed that is verydifficult to see.

I haveattached a photograph of the un-scarified lot of seed we are currently sellingand scarified lot 9032, currently on the American market.

Remember, seedis responsible for over 7,000 confirmed cases of salmonella and E.coli0157:H7 in sprouts that made people sick enough to report it, be hospitalized,or killed.  This is like a reverse lottery.  Save money each time youplay with the potential of being the unlucky grand loser.

Someof these seed suppliers have been involved in several pathogen outbreaks andstill sell irresponsible seed.  One who has been involved in severaloutbreaks told me that he has no intention to quit selling scarified seed. He said “Well Bob, that is what insurance companies are for.”

Thisproblem won’t end until seed suppliers quit hearing “Cheaper, Cheaper,Cheaper” and start hearing “Safer, Safer, Safer”.  Cheepseed is easy to come up with.  Safe seed takes a major commitment to theindustry.

Eachtime you shop, call three suppliers and don’t ask price.  Ask them to showyou their safety procedures.  Buy from the one who has worked hardest toinsure your safety, your customer’s safety, and the safety of the industry. If just a couple dozen large growers did this on a regular basis, the seedcompanies would start to realize that having safe seed means more than lipservice.

Don’tbelieve anything your seed dealer says unless you have it in writing andthey show you how they derived at what they are saying.  The person whoactually did the work should sign each step of their procedures.  If youend up defending your business practices in court, “The seed supplier toldme it was only buffed”, just won’t cut it.

Inorder to have a safe product you need to have:

  1. Seed that is undamaged
  2. Properly sanitized the seed
  3. A well managed post-testing program.

If youdon’t have A, you don’t have B.

Pleaseprotect your customers, Don’t Buy Damaged Seed!