36 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM T he importance of seeds is no secret. But while industry may tend to think of seeds in terms of traded goods or genetic resources, and thus a source of revenue, we must not forget that seeds can also be a source of devastating pests and diseases. The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) plays a cru- cial role in finding solutions that facilitate international movement of seeds while also protecting the world’s plant resources from the possible adverse effects that this trade could have. The IPPC governing body, known as the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM), at their annual meeting in April 2017 in Incheon, Korea, adopted a global standard that will help ensure safer seed trade. The new IPPC standard provides guidance to identify, assess and manage the pest risk, and help countries establish phytosanitary import requirements for the movement of the seeds to be used globally. Industry and governments worldwide have long recognized the benefits for everyone to use the same approaches when setting their plant health requirements for seed import. The seed industry was directly involved in the development of the standard in an eager attempt to harmonize the myriad of rules they were facing when trading internationally. “This standard was developed in close consultation with the International Seed Federation and pulls together the elements that support the safe international movement of seeds. It establishes a common lan- guage for regulators, as well as the seed production and trading industry and the growers who are dependent on clean seed to produce their crops and it is a promising step towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals”, noted the CPM chairperson Lois Ransom. The countries that have signed the IPPC agree that a stand- ard on seeds was needed back in 2010. Since then, the IPPC sec- retariat drove a transparent and multi-stakeholder process to develop the standard, engaging national and regional legislators and the private sector in discussions. These efforts resulted in a standard adopted by consensus, covering the concerns and issues expressed by the 183 countries that are parties to the IPPC. But was the road to agreement easy? No, it was not. The complex nature of the international seed trade led to challenging debates among the experts and government representatives who contemplated what content the standard should include. Seed movement is not just for trade, with immense volumes of consignments, it also involves seeds moving across interna- tional borders for research and development purposes. It is common that seed companies breed seeds in various countries to produce more than one crop of seeds each year. The seeds produced may then be sent to more than 100 countries through international distribution centres where they are cleaned, treated, tested and packed. Another factor that complicates matters is that often the final destination may not be known at the time of export, or seeds may be stored in one country for years before re-export, and possibly mixed with other seed lots. Therefore, it may be practically impossible to provide phy- tosanitary declarations not only because years have passed since the seeds were first exported but also because sometimes the specific status of the seeds may not be known. Besides having to take these complex scenarios into con- sideration, it is always tricky finding common ground for the multiple realities existing worldwide. A standard is the result of what stakeholders can agree on (which may not be the best result, but as good as it gets). But in this case, it was necessary to ensure that the IPPC standard would not be too narrow, given the time and effort spent on it, while also just broad enough to get buy in from all stakeholders. Clearly, the standard should also not provide guidance on areas that are outside the IPPC mandate, such as quality. However, many exporters may have difficulties in distinguishing quality and plant health issues, especially when it comes to weeds. Naturally, importers do not wish to have a seed shipment full of weed seeds, even if the weeds do not present a plant health risk to the seeds that are being imported. Furthermore, importers may not clearly distinguish whether this is a food safety or plant health problem. There are also diverging ideas between importing and exporting countries. Importing countries may work towards more stringent guidance because they fear receiving unwanted bugs and diseases with their seed consignments. Exporting countries will wish for easier and more rapid movement, dealing with millions of tons of seed consignments yearly. Developing countries may not have the know-how or financial resources to implement costly methods to detect or identify pests, whereas this is exactly what importing countries would need to be confident that incoming seeds will not present a risk. The process of finalizing the new IPPC seeds standard was thus a balanced act of negotiation. “The seeds standard is an excellent example of how the UN normative process works,” said FAO Assistant Director-General Ren Wang. “Developed and developing nations, importing and exporting countries and industry have come together to identify solutions to problems that directly or indirectly affect us all,” he added. ADOPTION OF A NEW IPPC SEEDS STANDARD BY: BRENT G. LARSON ANOTHER SEED FOR FOOD SECURITY HAS BEEN SOWN Photo ©FAO Photo ©FAO/Paballo Thekiso Photo ©FAO/Vladimir Valishvili