An in-depth overview on the global seed industry. From a conference in Brussels on improving innovation in the plant sector to China's renewed emphasis on its seed sector.
In mid-May, the European Technology Platform “Plants for the Future” held a high-level conference in Brussels on how to improve the flow of plant innovation in Europe. Major stakeholders of the technology platform were the European Plant Science Organization, COPA-COGECA (a European farmers’ organization) and the European Seed Association, as well as a number of individual plant breeding companies. The purpose of the conference was to identify key areas for improvement such as barriers to innovation and methods to overcome them, ways in which ongoing and future research programs may contribute to promote market-driven solutions, and which objectives should be met to boost innovation in the plant sector. For more information on the outcomes, visit www.plantetp.org.
The European Seed Association will hold its annual meeting and the European Seed Trade meeting October 16-18, 2011. For the first time, this meeting will not take place in Brussels but in the capital city of one of the member states—Budapest, Hungary. In making this decision, ESA follows the request of many of its members. It is convinced the new location will provide excellent opportunities for participants not only to discuss the latest political, scientific and market developments in plant breeding, seed production and seed marketing, but also to specifically focus on Central and Eastern Europe, where the sector has undergone fundamental changes over the past decade.
The 11th Annual African Seed Trade Association Congress was held March 7-10, 2011 in Lilongwe, Malawi, and attracted 200 delegates from all over the world. The Congress was officially opened by Malawi’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Margaret Mauwa. She emphasized the importance of access for African farmers to certified seed and farm inputs as a means of ensuring food security on the continent. Mauwa urged participants to come up with credible solutions for improving Africa’s trade in quality seed. While addressing the Congress during the opening ceremony, AFSTA president Enock Chikava called on the seed industry to play a leading role in the quest to feed Africa’s rapidly growing population. Chikava noted that new technologies are needed to achieve Africa’s Green Revolution.
The theme of the eleventh AFSTA Annual Congress 2011 was on “achieving food security through increased access to quality seed by African farmers.” The congress presented delegates and seed companies with an excellent opportunity to display their products, advance their seed business interests, and strengthen their knowledge of various seed trade-related issues. The congress underscored the importance of using modern biotechnology to develop drought-tolerant seed varieties to help protect Africa against the devastating impacts of climate change and variability. Prior to the congress, the Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties facilitated a half-day workshop to discuss developments in plant variety protection in Africa, means of enforcing breeders’ rights, and licensing protected varieties.
The AFSTA General Assembly confirmed that the AFSTA Annual Congress 2012 will be held in Tanzania next March.
China’s seed industry is experiencing massive growth. This spring, China’s Vice Premier Hui Liangyu urged local governments to give top priority to establishing a modern seed industry in order to promote the stable development of the country’s agriculture sector and ensure food security.
Relevant local authorities should include breeding high-quality seeds in their efforts to boost agricultural innovation and develop a modern agricultural system, Liangyu· said at a national work conference on developing a modern seed industry held in Changsha, the capital city of central China’s Hunan Province.
“All regions and departments concerned should step up efforts to accelerate the seed industry’s modernization and strive to transition from a traditional seed industry to a modern one,” he said. He called for increased efforts to advance technical innovation in breeding top-quality seeds, promote seed enterprises’ competitiveness through mergers and restructuring, strengthen policy support to ensure seed supplies, and enhance seed market supervision.
Meanwhile, the Asian and Pacific Seed Association announced that Japan, which was to host this year’s Asian Seed Conference, was forced to cancel due to the recent earthquake and tsunami. The conference was to be held in November.
The Seed Association of the Americas is a non-governmental organization that fully represents the interests of the seed industry within countries in South, Central and North America. SAA has many projects and workshops in progress to educate and support development, marketing and free movement of seed within the Americas.
SAA distributed an official statement on IP in December 2010. SAA recognizes that the protection of intellectual property rights is essential for the sound development of the seed industry in the Americas. One of the key drivers of innovation within any industry is the capital that is invested in research. Research investments are generally long-term, and many require significant amounts of capital resources and entail large risks.
The statement also claims that the level of investment in the seed industry is directly related to the effectiveness of the intellectual property protection available. In order to attract the size and scope of investment necessary to develop improved products, whether they are varietal, hybrid or from biotechnology, investors must have the opportunity to earn competitive returns on their original investments. SAA members, therefore, are unanimously in favor of a strong intellectual property protection system, which will ensure an acceptable return on research investment, and encourage further research efforts in plant breeding.
The second workshop on phytosanitary measures organized by SAA was held at Montevideo, Uruguay in September 2010. Directors and high-level officials from five COSAVE countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay), plus all North American Plant Protection Organization members, as well as the executive directors from both NAPPO and COSAVE, a representative from Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, a number of specialized industry staff from different countries of the continent, the International Seed Federation, the Centre for Agricultural BioscienceInternational and SAA participated in the workshop.
During the workshop, 27 speakers covering 11 important topics discussed their points-of-view related to seed trade and how phytosanitary regulations affect it. A general consensus emerged that there is a new trend in trading seeds worldwide that includes increased quantities, multiple destinations and re-exports. These factors were identified as the “new seed paradigm of trade.”
The third Seed Congress of the Americas will take place September 28-29, 2011 in Santiago de Chile.
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