Plant Breeding and Plant Health

Plant Breeding and Plant Health

Unlike traditional marketing, seed marketing refers to the legislative framework that regulates the seed market and with which companies need to comply if they wish to sell their seeds. When seed companies sell their seeds to farmers and growers they are at the very start of the agricultural production chain, which is crucial for feed and food security, as well as the bioeconomy. A seed is therefore not like any other product!

The European seed marketing legislation lays down the appropriate conditions under which seed of varieties of determined plant species can be marketed within the EU:

  • Variety listing: before being authorised for marketing, a new plant variety must be listed and comply with a set of requirements establishing its identity and, for some species, its performance. This is the base for encouraging breeding innovation and ensuring that farmers and growers have a choice of clearly identifiable and comparable varieties with distinct characteristics that are uniformly present in any given bag of seed of that variety.

  • Seed quality: the legislation offers guarantees to farmers, growers and final consumers on the physical quality of the seed. Only high quality seed from guaranteed sources may be put on the market, and these principles are also recognised within international frameworks such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) seed schemes. Where there are long seed production chains, there is mandatory seed certification; whereas for shorter seed production chains (as in vegetables for instance) the quality of the seed is assessed and maintained through in-house quality assurance systems.

Finally, it is essential to guarantee seed health. As people and plant products, including seed, move around the world, organisms that present risks to plants and seed may travel with them and spread to new areas. Pest introductions and outbreaks can cost governments, farmers and consumers billions every year. Once pests are established, their eradication is often impossible, and control binds significant resources. ESA works on EU and international level (IPPC) to analyse the specific risks related to seed and planting material and to establish science-based measures to safeguard their international exchange and use.

The rules and requirements for seed marketing and seed health are currently under review under the ‘Smarter Rules for Safer Food’ legislative package put forward by the European Commission May 2013.

See also

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