The International Seed Federation wrapped up its annual World Seed Congress at the start of June. This year’s congress took place in Belfast, Ireland, in which close to 1,400 people participated. Those who attended were able to witness the continuous growth of ISF. Another 26 new members were welcomed into the organization, of which eight were national seed associations including: Bangladesh, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela. Since the Belfast congress, several new members and seed associations have shown their interest in becoming an ISF member.
Following the congress, ISF members have been working hard on two major projects. The first is the revision of the ISF view on intellectual property, and the second project is the revision of the ISF trade rules.
With regards to the ISF view on IP, the Belfast congress generated more feedback as to where the revision should be heading, and directly following the annual event revised versions of the different chapters were circulated among the members of the ISF Intellectual Property Committee as well as the ISF Breeders Committee. These will first be discussed at the next Intellectual Property Committee meeting in September 2011, followed by a discussion at the Breeders Committee in November.
The Congress in Belfast also provided useful feedback on the proposed changes in the ISF trade rules which will be discussed at the next meeting of the ISF Trade and Arbitration Rules Committee in October.
Chinese consulting company CCM International and the organizing committee of the 19th Beijing Seed Conference will hold a seed workshop on September 19, 2011 in Beijing. The event aims to facilitate a discussion with industry experts about China’s recent policy statement, “Suggestions for Accelerating Development of the Modern Seed Industry.” According to event organizers, “suggestions” makes it clear that China views the seed industry as having strategic and fundamental importance to the nation. Key topics will include the current situation of the seed industry in China, as well as analysis of China’s seed policies and future opportunities.
“This event is important to the global seed industry as China, the second largest seed market in the world, will intricately interact with many other countries. Its rapid development and the latest favourable governmental policies grant it many new commercial opportunities. This is something the global seed market can share,” says Flora Au, media specialist with CCM International based in Guangzhou. “In general, it’s an informative event for the top seed industry players concerned with China’s seed market.”
It is reported that Beijing will release two more policy statements in the coming months dealing with the development and regulation of the seed industry in China, signalling the nation’s renewed investment in the industry.
China is taking great steps to develop genetically modified drought-tolerant wheat, according to experts at the exhibition meeting of China’s major program, “Abiotic-tolerant GM Wheat New Variety Development,” held at the National GM Wheat Pilot Trial Experimental Base at the Shijiazhuang Academy of Agricultural Sciences in May 2011.
According to Youzhi Ma, head scientist of the program, “Many drought-tolerant GM wheat lines have been developed within two years since the program was launched. Genes used for transformation were cloned from soybean and wheat.”
Experts from the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, who attended the conference, gave three main recommendations for further development of GM wheat:
- Strengthen the management of GM biosafety assessment to ensure biosafety during the entire process of research and development;
- Inform the public about the technology; and
- Establish joint innovation teams to speed up the progress of new GM variety development.
Ethiopia’s first forage seed workshop, “Forage Seed Research and Development in Ethiopia,” was held from May 12-14 at the headquarters of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research in Addis Ababa. The conference aimed to address the security and quality of feed in contributing to livestock productivity.
In his opening address, Dr. Solomon Assefa, director general of the EIAR, stated, “Despite suitable climatic conditions and a wide range of agro-ecologies for forage seed production, Ethiopia is not self-sufficient... There is a need to look into what can be done at different levels to fulfill the national demand for forage seed supply.”
During the conference, attendees discussed the value of forage seed for livestock production, as well as the importance of increasing knowledge and training opportunities in forage seed production, distribution, and marketing in the country.
The EIAR, initiated in the 1940s, is responsible for running Ethiopia’s federal research centres. Its mission statement is “to see improved livelihood of all Ethiopians engaged in agriculture, agro-pastoralism and pastoralism through market competitive agricultural technologies.”
Kenya, sometimes considered the “trade gateway to Africa,” has published a notice allowing the production and sale of genetically modified crops as of July 1, 2011—a move designed to counteract hunger with the importation of cheaper staples such as maize and wheat, as millions face starvation in the country.
Producers or traders of GM crops must obtain written consent from the country’s government regulator, the National Safety Authority, but it is expected that GM products will “form a sizeable portion of the maize shipments to Kenya between now and December under a special duty-free import scheme.” The presidential brief stipulates, however, that only millers will be allowed to import GM maize, which will be used for processing into flour. It also states that “no GM maize should be used as seeds under any circumstances.”
The price of maize, which forms a crucial part of the country’s diet, has sharply increased over recent weeks. “The prevailing circumstances have forced us to expediate the publication of regulations on GM crops and the guidelines on their importation,” said Roy Mugira, head of the NSA, in a recent interview. Kenya is the first country in the region to allow GM crops for human consumption.
Nearly 1,000 hectares of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds have been destroyed in Hungary, under order from the Hungarian Ministry of Rural Development. The country is one of few in Europe that has so far fought successfully to keep GM products from entering its food supply. A regulation was introduced this March stipulating that all seed must be checked for GM presence before entering the market—but some Monsanto and Pioneer seeds remained undetected and were planted by farmers this spring.
According to Lajos Bognar, Deputy State Secretary for the Ministry of Rural Development, the free movement of goods within the European Union means that authorities in Hungary will not investigate how the seed arrived in the country. However, inspections throughout the country will continue—despite farmers’ concerns that GM seeds could have been sown on thousands more hectares, and the late discovery of GM presence in the crops means this year’s entire harvest has been lost.
The Rural Development Ministry, according to the nation’s agricultural website, Agromonitor, has recently dismissed the heads of its four departments due to disagreement on the issue of the destruction of tainted seed.
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