Here's the difference between:
OPEN POLLINATED: Seeds that grow true to type, produced by plants that are pollinated naturally without human selection controls. Save these seeds!
HEIRLOOM: Seeds that grow true to type, produced by plants selected by humans for one or more desired traits and passed down through the generations. Gems. Save these seeds! Also includes seeds of newer selected and trusted varieties whose seeds grow true to type.
HYBRID: Generally labeled "F1". Seeds from modern hybrid plants produced by cross-pollinating two different, inbred parent plants. Generally speaking, offspring seeds will NOT grow true to type, so these seeds typically are not good for saving.
TREATED: Seeds coated with a chemical fungicide or pesticide. Usually coated in a fluorescent color for easy detection.
GMO ("Genetically Modified Organism"): Seeds whose DNA has been modified in a laboratory to include genes from non-plant life forms. Generally speaking, offspring seeds will NOT grow true to type. More importantly, the long-term impact of introducing these transgenic organisms onto the planet is not yet understood and the short term impact is pointing to these GMOs having a negative, disruptive effect on a host of other organisms, including soil microbes, pollinators and humans. We urge everyone to avoid buying or planting GMO seeds at all costs. For more information on non-GMO resources, please see our Resources and Links page.
ORGANIC and CERTIFIED ORGANIC: Interchangeable labels for seeds harvested from plants grown under a set of standards regulated by the USDA National Organic Program or a state equivalent. By definition, the plants are non-GMO, grown from untreated seeds and without ionizing radiation, chemical or sewage sludge fertilizers, or man-made chemical insecticides, pesticides or herbicides. A consumer's best bet for ensuring their food safety if they do not know their seed source.
ECOLOGICALLY FARMED: Grown without synthetic chemical inputs by local growers dedicated to building good soil in harmony with nature to produce delicious, nutrient-rich food. This is how our ancestors farmed for most of the last 10,000 years, producing the immense variety of medicinally and agriculturally significant crops we enjoyed until recently. Many small farmers and home gardeners in your area grow this way today. Differs from Organic only in that the grower has not elected to go through the certification process and cannot label their seeds "Organic". Get to know these wonderful people and source your seeds from them, particularly rare heirlooms and open pollinated seeds that are not yet available as labelled organics. Grow these seeds ecologically yourself, save their offspring and in one season you help rebuild the supply of biodiverse, genetically vibrant, healthy seed!
SEED LIBRARIES: Community-run seed repositories for common use and benefit. Members check out seeds, grow them locally, and return new seeds the following year. Ensures the genetic health of locally adapted biodiverse seed, and supports a community in developing their own food resiliency and independence.
SAFE SEED PLEDGE: Crafted in 1999 by seed companies concerned about the impact of GMO seed on planetary health. Nine original signers and now more than 70 companies large, small, and micro (like us, the Good Seed Company), have joined. To learn more, please visit our Resources and Links page. Here's the Pledge:
"Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms poses great biological risks, as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities."