Click here for a printable pdf file of this article.
The Seed Regulatory and Testing Division of the USDA AMS has published helpful information regarding this topic. Click here for their publication entitled: Facts About-Naming and Labeling Varieties of Seed.
Seed Labeling in Kentucky: Brands and Varieties
The Importance of a Name
The Kentucky Seed Law requires proper labeling for all seed sold in our state. The label provides a wide range of valuable information to inform purchasers about the quality and characteristics of seed. One of the most important items identified on the seed label is the variety statement. In Kentucky, with only a few exceptions, all seed kinds are required to be identified with a variety name unless the variety in not known. On the other hand, select seed kinds such as yellow soybean and any certified seed kind must specify a variety name.
If the variety is not known, the label must indicate “variety unknown.” “Variety not stated” (VNS) is not permissible in Kentucky. In states that allow the use of this expression, VNS might be used when the variety is indeed known, however, for some reason the labeler does not wish to disclose the variety name.
The Kentucky Seed Law specifies that a variety is a subdivision of a seed kind which is distinct, uniform, and stable. A variety description defines the characteristics of a variety and typically includes information relating to yield characteristics, days to maturity, disease resistance and a host of other attributes. This is the essential information that growers need when they make varietal selections to meet their specific requirements i.e. climate, cropping conditions, etc. Typically, the originator or discoverer of the variety will actually develop a variety’s name. Once a variety is named, that name will be used for the life of the variety (only a few rare exceptions allow for the renaming of a variety).
Brands are also commonly used on seed labels but brands should not be confused with varieties. Brands are often used for marketing purposes and occasionally, brand names from different companies may represent the exact same variety. Additionally, some company brand names may be comprised of different varieties. This certainly creates at least the potential for confusion among seed purchasers. So, while it is permissible in Kentucky to label seed with a brand name, it must always be accompanied with a variety statement. These items should be clearly distinguished to minimize confusion.
For Seed Labelers:
In Kentucky, variety labeling is regularly examined for accuracy. For seed labelers, a simple way to think about this topic is:
- If you know the variety of the seed kind, specify it on the label;
- If you don’t know the variety simply label it as variety unknown. And…
- Even if you market seed with a brand name, always clearly specify the variety.
For Seed Dealers:
We recommend that Kentucky seed dealers examine seed tags for appropriate variety identification as new inventories are received.
Collectively, these efforts will go a long way to help ensure Kentucky seed purchasers have appropriate and accurate information for making seed purchases.