An expert consultation workshop on seed policy formulation will be organized by FAO and ENSE/INRAN from 28 to 30 March in Milan. It will gather up to 30 participants including seed policy experts, Ministry of Agriculture officials, researchers, seed experts, representatives of the private sector and an additional FAO officers from seed and PGRFA, agriculture policy, economics, International Treaty Secretariat and legal services. There will be presentation on key issues to stimulate discussion. Case studies of successful seed policies implemented in different continents will also be presented. The result of the discussion will be used to improve FAO guidelines to member countries on seed policy formulation and or review.
Important investment in the development of the seed sector was made in developing countries from the 1950’s to the 1980s. Seed programmes developed in this period were generally based on a predominant role of the State in the various areas of the seed sector. In the following years, approaches based on the disengagement of the State from the seed sector were implemented. In some countries, this led to the development of a dynamic private seed sector but in many others the public seed sector collapsed and the private seed sector never took over. Today, many countries have a poorly developed seed sector that cannot provide farmers with adequate access to seed. The 2008 food price crisis, climate change issues and the recent recognition of the importance of agriculture in economic growth has provoked a renewed interest in investing in the development of the seed sector, recognized to be a critical step for the development of agriculture production and productivity.
In 1998-99 FAO undertook a number of region workshops in Africa, Asia Pacific and the Near East on seed policy to identify the elements that led to the development of the seed industry. In recent years, FAO has received a number of requests of assistance by member countries to develop or review their seed policy. The increase of interest in this domain calls for the development of comprehensive guidelines to assist them in this process. However, recent evolutions of the general agricultural context, international instruments, developmental paradigms and the international seed sector raise issues on the strategic choice to be made by countries. It has become clear that the seed policy must be closely aligned with the level of development of the agriculture sector. The issues to consider range from the link between agriculture research for the development/screening of new varieties, variety release, early generation seed production, the national seed service, certified seed production by the public and private sector, seed legislation options. Plant Variety Protection regimes, subsidies, seed price, biotechnology, the role of farmer saved seed, seed extension and strategies for the introduction of new varieties and the preservation of adapted local landraces, all these issues should be addressed in seed policies. In this context, FAO has decided to gather international seed policy experts in order to review sector development issues, the content of seed policy and methodologies of formulation and implementation of seed policies, in order to elaborate guidelines for seed policy formulation for the use of FAO member countries.