Plant legislation falls within two main categories: a) plant health protection including plant quarantine and pesticides registration; and b) seed, plant variety, and biotechnology legislation.
Governments aiming to improve their plant protection systems to facilitate agricultural trade with other countries -- especially if they have joined or are considering joining the World Trade Organization -- have approached FAO for assistance with updating their legislation or drafting new legislative instruments. Projects have been approved or are under way in Azerbaijan, Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Iran, Mauritius, Nepal, Nigeria and Tunisia. A regional project in the Caribbean region has led to the preparation and approval of draft plant protection law to be used as a model for the members of the Caribbean Community.
For the FAO Legal Officers and consultants providing this technical assistance, the New Revised Text of the International Plant Protection Convention and the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) serve as the basis for updated laws and regulations.
For the second category (seeds, plant variety protection, and biotechnology), countries such as Iran and Mauritius have sought assistance with developing basic seed laws to establish the necessary structures for effective seed certification and trade. In Syria, legal assistance turned on implementation of Syria's pending responsibilities under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources in Food and Agriculture.
In recent years many countries have been assessing the implications of the WTO TRIPS (Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement, which requires signatory countries to apply the obligations of the world's most important intellectual property conventions. Article 27 of the Agreement requires member countries to provide for the protection of plant varieties by patents, by an effective sui generis system, or by both. Member countries of FAO are inquiring about their duties and options under the Agreement, and its implications for their national legislation. Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, and Malaysia have sought FAO assistance in developing legislation of the products of biotechnology. Swaziland, as well, wishes to prepare legislative instruments specifically to regulate genetically modified organisms.
Occasionally, FAO member countries request assistance in developing legislation on other plant-related matters, such as those captured in projects on the establishment of a mandatory health certification scheme for citrus in Trinidad, the creation of a regional locust commission for several countries of Central Asia, the launch of a regional food safety, animal and plant health agency for the Caribbean, and the harmonization of measures for fruit fly control in a number of North African and Gulf countries. Kenya received assistance regarding legislation to establish the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, which will be charged with enforcing the plant protection law, the seed law and the plant variety protection law – all prepared collaboratively using national and FAO legal expertise.