Massachussetts Seed Law

Summary: The Massachussetts seed law regulates seeds that are "sold" in the state. However, the statute does not clearly define the words "sold" or "sell." From seed laws of other states, these terms can include "exchanges" where no money changes hands. The statute should clarify what exactly "sold" means and exempt seed libraries if they do in fact come under the law’s scope

Massachussetts General Laws; Part I: Administration of the Government; Title XIX: Agriculture and Conservation; Chapter 128: Agriculture

https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXIX/Chapter128

Section 84. Definitions:

The following words, as used in sections eighty-four to one hundred and one, inclusive, unless the context otherwise requires, shall have the following meanings:—

Note: "Sell" or "sale" are not  defined by the State’s seed law. These terms should be defined and seed  library activities should be expressly excluded from these definitions.

Section 85. Sale of Seeds; Labeling or Tagging Containers, Required Information

Except as otherwise provided in section ninety-two, each container of agricultural, vegetable, flower or tree and shrub seed which is sold, offered for sale or exposed for sale within the commonwealth for sowing purposes shall bear thereon, or have attached thereto in a conspicuous place on one side of a plainly written or printed label or tag, in the English language, the name and address of the person who labeled said seed, or who sells, offers or exposes said seed for sale within the commonwealth. If said seed has been treated, a separate label may be used, which shall bear thereon a word or statement indicating that the seed has been treated, the commonly accepted coined, chemical or abbreviated chemical name of the applied substance, and, if the substance in the amount present with the seed is harmful to humans or other vertebrate animals, a statement advising caution such as “Do not use for food, feed or oil purposes”. If said seed contains mercurials or similarly toxic substances, a statement or symbol shall indicate that it is poisonous. It shall contain the name and number of each kind of “Restricted Noxious-Weed Seed” per pound when present.

Note: The above subsection requires that any seed "exposed" for "sale" requires a lable of the name and address of the person who "offers" or "exposes" the seed. If seed libraries are not excluded here, this may discourage seed library activity. 

Section 86. Sale of Seeds; Labeling or Tagging Containers, Variety or Cultevar Designation

Each container of agricultural seeds, including lawn seeding mixtures, shall also bear the commonly accepted name of the kind and variety or cultivar of those kinds which are usually named as to variety or cultivar, as prescribed by rules and regulations, of each seed component in excess of five per cent of the whole and the percentage by weight of each in the order of its predominance. When the variety or cultivar thereof is unknown, the label or tag shall have printed thereon the words “variety unknown”. When more than one component is required to be named, the word “mixture” or “mixed” shall be shown conspicuously on the label. The lot number or other lot identification, the origin, if known, of alfalfa, red clover, white clover, and field corn, except hybrid corn, shall also be shown on such label. If the origin is unknown, that fact shall be stated. The container shall bear thereon the percentage by weight of all weed seeds, the percentage by weight of agricultural seeds other than those required to be named on the label, which shall be designated as “other crop seed”, and the percentage by weight of inert matter. For each agricultural seed named there shall appear, the percentage of germination, exclusive of hard seed, the percentage of hard seed, if present and the calendar month and year the test was completed to determine such percentages.

Section 87. Vegetable Seeds; Labeling or Tagging Containers, Required Information

Containers of one pound or less for peas, beans and sweet corn and containers of one-quarter pound or less for all other kinds of vegetable seeds shall also bear, thereon, the date of test or calendar year for which seed is packaged, and the kind and variety or cultivar of seed. For seed that germinates less than the standard last adopted by the director, there shall appear on the containers the percentage of germination, exclusive of hard seed, the percentage of hard seed, if present, the calendar month and year the test was completed to determine such percentages, and the words “Below Standard” in not less than eight point type.

Containers of more than one pound for peas, beans and sweet corn and containers of more than one quarter pound for all other kinds of vegetable seeds shall bear the kind and variety of seed, the lot number or other lot identification, the percentage of germination, exclusive of hard seeds the percentage of hard seeds, if present, and the calendar month and year the test was completed to determine such percentages and for seeds germinating less than the standard, the words “Below Standard” in not less than eight point type.

Section 90. Sale of Seeds; percentage of germination; labeling; false advertisements; noxious weed seeds

No person shall sell, offer for sale or expose for sale any agricultural, vegetable, flower or tree and shrub seed within the commonwealth unless the test to determine the percentage of germination required by sections eighty-six to eighty-nine, inclusive was completed within a nine-month period, exclusive of the calendar month in which the test was completed, immediately prior to sale, exposure for sale or offering for sale or transportation. 

Neither shall seed be sold which is not labeled in accordance with the provisions of sections eighty-four to one hundred and one, inclusive; nor which bears false or misleading labeling; nor pertaining to which there has been a false or misleading advertisement; nor consisting of or containing, “Prohibited noxious weed seeds” nor consisting of or containing “Restricted noxious weed seeds” at a rate per pound in excess of the number declared on the label attached to the container of the seed or associated with the seed, subject to tolerances; nor containing more than one per cent of all weed seeds; nor labeled to use the word “trace” as a substitute for any statement as to quality or percentage which is required; nor shall seed be sold which is so weak or low in germination according to standards adopted by rules and regulations prescribed by the director under the provisions of section ninety-eight as to be unfit for seeding purposes; nor which is represented to be “certified seed”, “registered seed” or “foundation seed” or designated by any other term conveying similar meanings, unless such seed has been produced, processed and labeled in accordance with the procedures and in compliance with the rules and regulations of an officially recognized certification agency or agencies and bears an official tag or label of such an agency, or which is represented as hybrid seed unless such seed conforms to the definition of hybrid in section eighty-four, except that this provision shall not apply to variety names in common trade usage.

Section 93. Exemption of Penalty of Sec. 100; limitations

No person shall be subject to the penalties of section one hundred for having sold or offered or exposed for sale in the commonwealth any agricultural, vegetable, flower or tree and shrub seeds which were incorrectly labeled or represented as to kind, variety (cultivar) or origin, which seeds cannot be identified by examination thereof, unless he has failed to obtain an invoice or grower’s declaration or other labeling information giving kind, variety or origin, if required, and to take such other precautions as may be necessary to insure the identity to be that stated.

The labeling requirements for all vegetable and agricultural seeds, including mixtures, flower and tree or shrub seeds shall be considered to have been met if the seed is taken from a properly labeled container in the presence of the purchaser.          

Note: This section exempts seeds which cannot be identified, however, does not expressly exempt seed libraries. 

Section 100. Penalty

Whoever sells, offers or exposes for sale any lot of agricultural seeds or mixtures thereof, vegetable seeds, flower seeds or tree and shrub seeds without complying with the requirements of sections eighty-four to ninety-nine, inclusive, applicable thereto or in violation of any order, under section ninety-five of the commissioner or of the superior court if an appeal is taken, or whoever falsely marks or labels any such seed or mixture, or impedes, obstructs or hinders the commissioner or any of his duly authorized agents, or the director or any of his duly authorized assistants, in the discharge of the authority or duties conferred or imposed by any provision of said sections, shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars.

Note: Offer or exposes for sale may include seed library activities. Seed libraries should be excluded per section 93.

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The Regulations below are taken from The Official Website of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/agr/legal/regs/330-cmr-6-00.pdf

The Code of Massachusetts Regulations is comprised of regulations promulgated by state agencies pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 30A). Regulations have the force and effect of law like statutes.

                                                  

6.03:  Requirements for Seeds Sold or Offered For Sale within the Commonwealth                                                                        

                                             

(3) Agricultural Seed. No person shall sell agricultural seed, including a mixture, containing more than 15% inert matter unless the seed is coated with special materials or has been preplanted in a container, mat, tape or other similar planting device.

                                        

(6) Labeling of Seed.