Seeds of harmony

Harmonized seed laws: a key tool to improve farmers’ access to quality seed

Food security requires that farmers have access to good quality seed of a wide diversity of crops and varieties. To achieve that goal, FAO is supporting harmonization of seed rules and regulations in Africa and Central Asia in order to stimulate the development of a vibrant seed industry.

In recent years, the harmonization of seed rules and regulations has been a major area of FAO’s work to achieve seed security. Harmonized seed regulatory frameworks have been developed in the 14 member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and in the 17 West African Member Countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS). Consultations are also ongoing with the Central African Economic and Monetary Union (CEMAC), and in the Central Asia and Caucasus region with the collaboration of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).

A harmonized framework of seed rules and regulations is a key element to strengthen farmers’ access at all times to good quality seed of improved varieties suited to their various agro-ecological zones and culinary needs. It facilitates seed trade and therefore creates an enabling environment for the development of private seed enterprises that can strongly contribute to ensure a sustainable seed supply to farmers and increase food production.

An effective seed regulation harmonization process involves dialogue amongst all relevant stakeholders from both private and public sectors. Seed quality assurance, variety release, plant variety protection, biosafety, plant quarantine and phytosanitary issues are among the major technical areas of a regional harmonized seed system. The key to a successful seed regulation harmonization is a strong political will of the governments involved and the leading role of regional organizations committed to implement a common market and a regional agricultural policy. Harmonization does not necessarily imply uniform seed rules and regulations of member countries, but creates a common regulatory system to enhance seed trade.