Seed certification is a limited generation program for assuring the genetic purity of seed. The variety of a crop from which certified seed is to be produced must first be accepted for certification. It may be submitted by plant breeders in public institutions for public varieties or private organizations for proprietary varieties. Acceptance is based on data and information that substantiate claims by the plant breeder and shows the variety to be uniform and adapted to the region of production.
The first seed of a new variety, grown under the supervision of the plant breeder, is called Breeder seed. The generation grown from the Breeder seed is know as Foundation in the United States. Generations are limited to maintain seed purity. The normal progression of the seed classes is: Foundation – Registered – Certified. Certified seed is normally made available only to growers who produce commercial seed classes. Under this system, genetic purity standards are strictest in earlier generations to prevent unacceptable frequencies of off-types in later generations. During field inspections the initial out-crosses are often more easily distinguishable from true to type plants. Certified classes must be produced in a manner that meets the standards of a certification agency. While requirements of the various certification agencies may vary slightly, they always will meet or exceed national standards.