| APPRC/04/INF/5 |
TWENTY-SEVENTH FAO REGIONAL CONFERENCE FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
Beijing, China, 17 - 21 May 2004
SEED POLICY AND REGULATIONS IN THE LIGHT OF THE INTERNATIONAL TREATY ON PGRFA AND THE CARTAGENA PROTOCOL ON BIOSAFETY
1. The Asia-Pacific region has approximately 55 percent of the world’s population, most of whom depend on agriculture. About 73 percent of the world’s farming households are in this region with only 32 percent of the world’s agricultural land. While the Asian population is predicted to grow at the rate of 1 percent per annum,1 land for agriculture is expected to show only a marginal increase by the year 2030. Even if the first International Development Goal of the Millennium Declaration of halving the percentage of people below the absolute poverty line by the year 2015 is achieved, there will still be about 700 million people immediately above the poverty line, living on less than 2 dollars a day in East Asia alone.2 This is associated with food insecurity, with some 538 million undernourished people in the region. With current projections, the objective of the World Food Summit to halve the absolute number of undernourished people by the year 2015 will be difficult to achieve.
2. In the region, the increases in productivity per unit land area in major crops needed to meet food demands are challenged by diminishing crop yield increases, minimal increases in available land, major migrations to the cities and degrading natural resources. Moreover, the average farm size per family ranges from only 0.9 ha in Nepal to 3.8 ha in Pakistan (excluding Australia and New Zealand). Therefore, increasingly complex and diversified technologies will be required to parallel the success achieved through the green revolution in the last forty years. Techniques such as in vitro propagation have already had great impact in the production of virus free propagating material of species such as taro, banana and sweet potato, particularly in the Pacific islands. Agricultural research needs to develop or adapt cutting-edge technologies to exploit the genetic potential of improved varieties specifically adapted for the region’s varying agroclimatic and soil conditions, coupling environmental protection with increased productivity.
3. Effective seed systems are the necessary link to ensure farmers’ access, particularly resource-poor farmers and farmers in suboptimal crop environments, to good quality seeds of new, improved varieties that best fulfill their requirements. At the national level, seed systems have to be dynamic to adapt to an increasingly globalized scenario, increasing competitive conditions, and new international rules governing agricultural markets. In addition to international agreements governing agriculture trade, and the safe movement of seed, two recent international agreements need to be considered during the development of national seed policies: the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA). The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety already entered into force in September 2003. The International Treaty was adopted as a binding instrument by the FAO Conference in 2001 and will enter into force ninety days after the fortieth state has ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the International Treaty (IT). Thirty-three states have ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the Treaty, eight of which from the Asia-Pacific region,3 and it is likely that the Treaty will enter into force by 2004.
4. This document provides a brief overview of seed systems, building on a consultation process through a series of expert workshops on Seed Policy, Seed Emergencies and Relief, and Quality Declared Seed. The main considerations and recommendations of the expert workshops are included in Annex 1 for information.4 This document also discusses the impact that the International Treaty on PGRFA, the International Plant Protection Convention and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety may have on national seed policies and regulations.
5. Seed systems in subsistence farming are complex and difficult to describe, as their character can vary for crops within farms and may even be different within a crop, for instance where local and modern varieties are managed differently.5 In general, they are largely based at the farming community level. They comprise a dynamic “cycle” of practices, embedded in normal crop production. Seed is typically produced on farms, though frequently there are inputs of seed through various mechanisms, such as seed exchange, or purchase in local seed markets. These may occur when there is insufficient material for planting, or in order to access new varieties. In community-based seed systems the varietal selection process, seed production and seed exchange are integrated into crop production and into the socioeconomic processes of farming communities.6 Local or community-based seed production activities take place outside the framework provided by regulated seed production standards.
6. Varieties produced by market-oriented farming strive to meet quality standards required for international markets. The global commercial seed market is valued at approximately US$30 billion, with international seed exchanges having grown from about US$ 1.4 billion in 1985 to about US$3.6 billion in 1998.7 The Asia-Pacific region features prominently as a major producer and purchaser of seed. The total value of the internal commercial market for seed of only seven countries of the Asia-Pacific region is estimated to be US$6.9 billion8 and a conservative estimate for the entire region is US$7.5 billion.9 Nevertheless, their reliance on well established infrastructure, limited crop coverage and susceptibility to disruption has limited their efficiency in developing countries. The community-based seed system is currently the primary source of seed, particularly in developing countries, and can account for 80–90 per cent of total seed consumed, particularly with self pollinated crops.10 Yet it suffers from many constraints: poor access to improved varieties adapted to local conditions, insufficient infrastructure to multiply quality seed, lack of adequate quality control and post-harvest management, and poor storage facilities. These constraints remain to be solved in many countries. At present, not enough information is available on the resilience and efficiency of community-based seed systems.
7. Although the technical principles to preserve the genetic purity of the seed through the multiplication process and its technical qualities are very similar among countries, the legal requirements vary from country to country and from crop to crop. In most Asia-Pacific countries (except, often, for vegetables) seed lots have to be “certified” for quality standards by an official body. The rules for certification are in general set in a national seed law. It must be noted that there is now, at national and international levels, a trend towards accreditation of private entities to carry out field inspection, seed sampling and seed testing.11 Seed certification standards also vary, although there are internationally accepted standards such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) seed schemes, usually followed in international seed trade. For domestic and local seed production, other international approaches to ensure quality seed have been applied, such as the FAO Quality Declared Seed (QDS) standards, developed as the follow-up to the FAO/SIDA Technical Conference on Improved Seed Production, held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1981, and attended by 63 countries and 14 international organizations.12 QDS is mainly used by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and seed relief workers, and also for quality control of forage seeds in some countries.
8. In recent years many Asian countries, including China and India, have reviewed their seed policies as part of the wider process of economic liberalization and modernization of the agricultural sector. The objective is to reduce the direct involvement of government in seed production and marketing, and to create a policy framework more favourable to the development of a more diverse and active private sector, releasing the public sector from costly services. Current changes in the global seed industry may also affect national seed systems and the status of 'public-good' research generally, with uncertain consequences. The evolution of seed policy regimes from a regulated to a liberalized seed trade system may not necessarily be linear. Liberalization can be targeted towards certain components of national seed policies, retaining regulation of some components to safeguard national interests.
9. The evolution of seed policy regimes from a regulated to a liberalized seed trade system is complex and needs time to adapt. Both the public and the private sectors have important roles to play and need to complement each other in providing the entire set of services related to variety development, seed production, quality control, distribution, and protection of the consumer. There is a strong need to develop human and institutional capacity to deal with intellectual property rights (IPR) related issues. Initiatives towards facilitating available information on the proprietary status of technologies and products need to be supported, including for proprietary status of key enabling technologies and products. The most efficient system needs to reflect the technical, legal and economic situation of each country, the type of crop and the stage of development of the seed system.13 Only effective cooperation and coordination will allow farmers to have access to adapted quality seed and thus contribute to sustainable agriculture and food security.
10. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted by the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in January, 2000 with the aim of providing an international regulatory framework for biosafety and safe movement of living modified organisms (LMOS) which are the products of biotechnology. The objective of the Cartagena Protocol stated in Article 1 is as follows: “In accordance with the precautionary approach contained in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the objective of this Protocol is to contribute to ensuring an adequate level of protection in the field of the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms (LOMs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health, and specifically focusing on trans-boundary movements.”
11. The Cartagena Protocol also regulates the trans-boundary movement of LMO seeds among Parties as implied its Article 3 on Use of Terms. Countries that have ratified the Protocol, or countries exporting LMO seeds to countries where the Protocol is in force, have to consider the requirements specified in this new binding agreement, in particular in terms of the necessary legislative measures that will need to be adopted to establish a national biosafety regime in full compliance with the provisions stated in the Protocol. The Cartagena Protocol also calls for establishing a Biosafety Clearing House and for Capacity Building, to facilitate the exchange of information and strengthening human resources and institutional capacities in biosafety.
12. In the Asia-Pacific region, so far 12 countries have ratified the Cartagena Protocol, and another 11 have signed it.14 As a result, the number of countries developing biosafety legislation has greatly increased in the region. The development of a national biosafety system needs to be consistent with, and support the development of, a strong effective seed system. Relevant stakeholders need to be represented in official national biosafety decision-making fora to ensure that this complementarity is achieved.
13. FAO, in coordination with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other stakeholders, is accumulating experience in the region with regard to the development of national biosafety systems, and helping countries increase their institutional and technical capacity at the national level. FAO also provides technical and legal assistance upon request to assist countries in this endeavor. Recent activities initiated by FAO in this area are the following:
14. The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is a technical multilateral agreement, with its Secretariat at FAO, which facilitates the safe transboundary movement of healthy plants and plant products, including seeds. The IPPC was revised in 1997 to ensure compatibility with the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement).
15. There are three primary areas of activity under the IPPC relevant to the seed trade:
16. As previously discussed, effective seed systems play a major role in increasing the availability of good quality seed of a wide number of varieties, maximizing both agrobiodiversity and productivity. Local seed systems provide the locus for on-farm management of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA), since PGRFA conservation and crop variety evolution take place as part of farmers’ production systems. Agricultural systems, where seed production is a specialized commercial activity, make use of genetic resources and both modern and traditional technologies are a fundamental input to developing new varieties.
17. The relevance of strengthening seed systems is fully acknowledged in the Global Plan of Action (GPA) for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of PGRFA as one of the priority activity areas that could contribute to this process. The 150 countries, including most Asian countries, that adopted the GPA at the Leipzig International Technical Conference in 1996, stated in the Leipzig Declaration the crucial need to link conservation of PGRFA to their use, and to facilitate access to both genetic resources and technologies as an essential step towards achieving the objectives of the GPA.15 Specific recommendations to this effect are contained in Priority Activity 13 of the GPA “Promoting seed production and distribution”, and in Priority Activity 3 “Assisting farmers in disaster situations to restore agricultural systems”. Other activity areas of the GPA have a strong impact in seed systems development, in particular
18. The Treaty provides, in Article 5, for the conservation, exploration, collection, characterization, evaluation and documentation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. Article 6 deals with the sustainable use of these resources and specifically provides that “Contracting Parties shall develop and maintain appropriate policy and legal measures that promote the sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. The sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture may include such measures as […] reviewing, and, as appropriate, adjusting breeding strategies and regulations concerning variety release and seed distribution.”
19. With the adoption of the International Treaty on PGRFA as a binding instrument by the FAO Conference in 2001, the GPA acquired a renewed dimension as an element that contributes to the objectives of the Treaty. Article 14 of the IT recognizes that “the rolling Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is important to this Treaty,” and “Contracting Parties should promote its effective implementation, including through national actions and, as appropriate, international cooperation to provide a coherent framework, inter alia, for capacity building, technology transfer and exchange of information […]”.
20. The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which holds the responsibility of monitoring the effective implementation of the GPA, considered at its Ninth Regular Session in 2002 a progress report by countries on the implementation of the GPA. In general, countries reported a low number of activities on seed-related priority activity areas. However, countries stressed the high priority accorded to their implementation, in particular Priority Activity 13 “Promoting seed production and distribution”, and Priority Activity 3 “Assisting farmers in disaster situations to restore agriculture systems”.16
21. The Commission decided that the Inter-governmental Technical Working Group on Plant Genetic Resources (WG-PGR) would consider at its second meeting (5-7 November 2003) issues related to the use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture through strengthening germplasm conservation, plant breeding and seed systems. In preparation for this meeting, and as part of FAO’s consultation process, during May 2003 FAO organized a series of technical workshops on seed policy, seed emergency and relief, and on quality declared seed (QDS). A document based on main results and recommendations of these workshops was discussed by the WG-PGR,17 which welcomed FAO’s initiatives on seed emergency and relief and recommended that the document be revised to “incorporate information on the impact of seed systems on the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and identify gaps, and the implications of the entry into force of the Cartagena Protocol on seed systems.”18 The WG-PGR also noted that the document should also provide specific recommendations for action by FAO to strengthen seed systems, without duplicating actions taken by other relevant organizations. The recommendations of the WG-PGR have been considered in the preparation of the present document.
22. Seed systems are dynamic and complex, and should be closely linked to PGRFA conservation and use, particularly on-farm. International developments such as the entry into force of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the revision of the IPPC, and the impending entry into force of the International Treaty on PGRFA are being considered by countries in the development of their national seed policy regulatory environment, as discussed in sections III to VI of this document.
Countries may wish to request FAO’s assistance:
National seed policy development must be placed in a wider context of agricultural policy development, while at the same time ensuring synergy and consistency with environmental, trade and socio-economic policies at national, regional and international level.
Seed policies need to contribute to increase access to good quality and safe seed of a wide number of adapted varieties and crops, with the objective to increase productivity and ensure sustainability. Other measures may be required to achieve these goals.
The role of the public and private sector in seed systems
The public and private sector have a dynamic complementary role to play in the seed system. Development of policy and regulations are the realm of the public sector. Certification may be implemented by the public sector or by duly accredited private entities. Other areas for public sector intervention include strengthening capacity building of farmers, particularly for small scale seed production, and breeding programmes of crops of interest for marginal areas of limited commercial interest, in particular when there are no other market forces to take this role.
Different models can be efficient in different scenarios. In terms of policy development, each country needs to assess who is better placed to undertake a specific role in order to build an efficient seed system. Specific distribution of roles may vary among countries, depending on their particular situation and needs, and among species. However, the involvement of farmers’ organizations and the private sector should be encouraged.
Countries engaged in transitional processes of liberalization and privatization of seed systems should do so on the basis of the development of long term planning. The process should involve the participation of all stakeholders, and allow for transitional periods and appropriate time frames, so that different players can adapt to the new scenarios. Capacity building and information sharing will be key to facilitate this process.
Building effective partnerships between private and public sectors requires sharing common objectives.
Partnerships can be established when the role of partners is complementary in achieving the common objective, and competition is avoided.
a) Complementarity among seed systems/building linkages with PGRFA
Seed polices should encourage fair competition and facilitate collaboration between seed systems, while promoting diversity in the markets to increase farmers’ choice. Effective and diverse product markets are imperative to promote seed market development and farmers’ access to good quality seed of a wide range of crops and varieties. Co-ordinated interventions – such as establishing appropriate policies, developing infrastructure and providing market information – could contribute to achieve this goal. Seed policies should also promote the conservation of agro-biodiversity through its use.
In strengthening linkages between all seed systems, appropriate rules are needed to ensure a “healthy” seed system, considering in particular fair competition and more flexible variety release procedures to allow coexistence of all seed systems for specific crops at local level.
Seed relief interventions, such as seed vouchers, seed fairs, and community-based seed security stocks have proven to be useful mechanisms to address access to seed and rehabilitate seed supply after disasters in many countries. Scale-up of such approaches in seed emergencies could be explored as an additional mechanism to promote seed market development without disrupting existing market arrangements and socio-cultural linkages. Detailed consideration of seed relief strategies is given later in this section.
b) Improving seed rules and regulations
Development and modification of national legislation for seeds should follow a national policy development process which addresses local, national and international needs of the country. In doing so, development of diversity-rich seed markets, good quality control systems, and IPR legislation should be considered.
Countries, particularly developing countries, sometimes find it difficult to implement their national legislation. While national capacity needs to be considered when updating and developing seed regulations, regional approaches could contribute to fill this gap.
There are different models for variety release, with different degrees of public intervention. Regulations in this area should be developed with the involvement of all relevant players across systems, ensuring independency of bodies through the different steps of the regulatory process.
c) Towards compatibility of seed regulatory frameworks
Common approaches are required to facilitate the movement of seeds among countries. Yet consistency of national legislation dealing with different aspects of seed supply must also be ensured to fulfil the objectives of the national policies.
Special attention is needed regarding the harmonization of phytosanitary measures within the framework of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the WTO SPS-Agreement, as well as variety release mechanisms, although other areas may also need specific effort, including seed certification and customs requirements.
A pragmatic approach calls for harmonization of technical specifications and procedures and compatibility of seed regulations, including through mutual recognition, particularly at regional level.
Criteria that may be considered when initiating regional approaches include trading blocs, existence of effective science and research networks, climatic and agro-ecological similarities and the mutual benefit of the countries participating in the process.
Seed associations can play an important role in facilitating compatibility of seed rules and regulations and to facilitate dialogue among stakeholders at national and regional level. This could be facilitated by the existence of a seed industry in the country.
d) Recommendations for FAO’s action
FAO can assist in identifying opportunities to build partnerships between public and private sector in seed systems.
FAO could play a role in promoting participatory processes in the development of a seed regulatory framework, assisting countries to match their regulations to their needs, and their local capacity, in line with their national seed policies. FAO has a role in gathering information on existing seed regulatory models in various countries, to provide options to countries.
In order to facilitate transitional phases in policy development, FAO could also assist in collecting and sharing accumulated experiences, including best practices and country case studies illustrating transitional processes in developing countries.
FAO can play a key role providing a forum to discuss compatibility of seed regulatory issues to facilitate the movement of seeds among countries and promote political will, while ensuring participatory approaches. To this purpose, FAO can also gather and disseminate existing case studies. Existing work from CG centres, universities and NARS can contribute to this process, with a particular emphasis on cost/benefit analysis and assist countries in developing institutional capacity.
The monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the GPA could be extremely useful to gather relevant information at country level from a wide number of stakeholders. The information gathered could also contribute to give more concrete information on seed systems, which could be relevant for the second State of the World Report on PGRFA. It could also be distributed through the Global Information System foreseen in Art. 17 of the International Treaty on PGRFA and/or WIEWS.
1. The overall aim of seed relief activities is to contribute to food and livelihood security by ensuring that farmers, especially vulnerable farmers, have access to seed (planting material) of adequate quality. This does not mean that seeds must necessarily be directly supplied from outside. Instead the emphasis is on facilitating farmers’ access to seeds, by direct distribution or through other means. Seed relief is to be seen within the broader context of supporting food and livelihood security.
2. Seed relief activities should (a) meet the immediate needs of farmers for access to planting material and (b) contribute to long term restoration, rehabilitation or improvement of agricultural systems. By supporting food production, seed relief should decrease dependence on repeated food aid.
3. These aims are nested within the broader aims of strengthening food and livelihood security consistent with the broader aims of FAO’s Strategic Objective A3: “Preparedness for, and effective and sustainable response to, food and agricultural emergencies”. Specific recommendations are also included in Priority Activity 3 of the GPA “Assisting farmers in disaster situations to restore agriculture systems”.
4. The overall goal and guiding principles recommended for seed relief interventions:
5. These principles, endorsed by the FAO Emergency Coordination Group, have important implications for FAO in terms of formulation of project documents including needs assessment. Guidelines for needs assessment and the module on seed relief, currently both under development, will assist project formulators in their task.
a) Recommendations for FAO’s action
6. FAO does not implement food aid, but does carry out food supply assessments jointly with WFP. The Organization implements seed aid and other interventions aimed at increasing agricultural productivity, although it has little capacity to assess needs for such interventions. It was suggested that the scope of GIEWS and FIVIMS should be broadened to include needs assessments relevant to seed security and other aspects of agricultural productivity. Ex situ gene banks can also play an important role in providing seeds when lost after disasters. Seed related information in the World Information and Early Warning System on Plant Genetic Resources should be linked to GIEWS.
7. More attention should be given to the management of information relevant to emergency relief operations in FAO to facilitate learning by doing. Needs assessments and the design of emergency operations require an inter-disciplinary approach and should draw more effectively upon data and expertise in various FAO departments and other institutions.
8. Administrative procedures, including procurement procedures should be reviewed to facilitate emergency operations and allow for innovative approaches.
9. FAO should promote greater attention to preparedness among its partners, including the development of seed system profiles or baseline seed security assessments for disaster-prone countries, and should explore how to scale up the use of seed fairs and vouchers, inter alia, building upon the Organization’s experience in scaling up farmer field schools.
10. The workshop recognized that there are many opportunities for strengthening partnerships between FAO and other organizations. FAO should work more closely with NGOs and local institutions in project implementation, and promote a two-way learning process between NGOs and the Organization. Greater recognition should be given to NGO contributions.
1. In order to consider new technical developments, and continue with the previous FAO work on Quality Declared Seed (QDS), technical experts agreed that attention should be given to the following issues:
a) Recommendations for FAO’s action
2. FAO should finalize the revised edition of its Quality Declared Seed document, incorporating new crops as well as the revised seed standards into the document.
3. FAO should take adequate action to promote the implementation of QDS at global level, particularly in developing countries where there is no quality control system in place.
4. The QDS should be made as widely available as possible, using various means including the Internet.
5. FAO should organize another Expert consultation to produce a manual aimed at issues related to a quality control scheme for clonal (asexual) crops.
1 Farming Systems and Poverty. Improving farmers’ livelihoods in a changing world. J. Dixon and A. Gulliver with D. Gibbon. FAO and the World Bank. 2001.
2 Progress and prospects for Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in East Asia. J. Kassum. World Bank at Fifth Asia-Europe Finance Ministers’ Meeting. July 2003. Indonesia.
3 At the time of preparation of this document, Bangladesh, Buthan, Cambodia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Malaysia and Myanmar have ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the International Treaty.
4 The expert workshops on Seed Policy, Seed Emergencies and Relief, and Quality Declared Seed, were organized as part of the global consultative process with a view to provide authoritive elements for discussion as requested by the Commission on PGRFA at its last ordinary session in 2002 and its Intergovernmental Technical Working Group on PGRFA.
5 Diversity, local and formal seed supply, in “Encouraging Biodiversity”, 2000, IT Pub. C, Almekinders and W. Deboef. pp 219-252.
6 “Local seed systems and their importance for an improved seed supply in developing countries”. Almekinders, C. et al. (1994).
8 International Seed Federation, 2003, The World Seed Trade.
9 Asian Seed & Planting Materials Volume 10 No. 4 July/August 2003. page 7.
10 Asian Seed & Planting Materials Volume 10 No. 4 July/August 2003. page 7.
11 Seeds for Mankind: Plant Breeding, Seed and Sustainable Agriculture, FIS. 2002.
12 See documents AGP/SIDP/81/76, AGP/SIDP/87/6 and “Quality Declared Seed system, Expert consultation” Report, 1989.
13 See note 4 supra.
15 Leipzig Declaration on Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. 1996. Paras. 6 and 7.
16 CGRFA-9/02/6 Para 41.
17 CGRFA/WG-PGR-2/03/3 “Strengthening seed systems”
18 CGRFA/WG-PGR-2/03/Draft Report. Para 32.