From a maize development program in France to the unlocking of the pigeonpea genome in India.
There’s no sport without proper and clear rules. The same is true for international trade. The seed trade met in 1924 to draft a set of internationally-approved trade rules at the first congress of the International Seed Trade Federation. But as in sports, from time to time the rules need to be revised in the seed trade. The International Seed Federation has been revising these rules each time a need to do so is expressed from the professional seed trade.
Last year, the ISF Trade and Arbitration Rules Committee began a major overhaul of the trade rules. The committee held another constructive meeting in October 2011 in Budapest, Hungary. The re-drafted trade rules will now be distributed to the entire ISF membership for their review. All members are encouraged to send in their comments to ensure the trade rules fit their needs. The next meeting of the committee is planned for February 2012 in Rome, Italy. It is then expected that the revised trade rules will be adopted at the 2012 ISF World Seed Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June.
ISF also maintains a set of internationally-approved rules for dispute settlement between seed companies, its so-called “arbitration rules.” Each year, between five and 10 international disputes are resolved through ISF arbitration rules. Work has begun on a revision of the arbitration rules, which is expected to be finalized at the 2013 ISF World Seed Congress in Athens, Greece.
—Marcel Bruins, secretary general, International Seed Federation
Amaizing, a French Stimulus Initiative project, has been officially launched in Versailles, France. The project is coordinated by the National Institute for Agricultural Research and led by Alain Charcosset, research director at INRA Versailles-Grignon.
Amaizing will bring together 24 key players in the French maize industry in a long-term partnership, including seven breeding companies and two biotechnology companies, and has a total operating budget of €30 million over eight years. Amaizing, according to INRA, will “[focus] on establishing tools and methods and on producing plant material based upon association mapping and ecophysiological studies of maize under abiotic stresses,” while also contributing to international efforts to characterize variations in the maize genome.
Amaizing is one of five winners of the “Biotechnology and Bioresources” call for proposals within the Investments for the Future program. Along with Breedwheat, INRA’s wheat breeding program, Amaizing aims to use advanced research and technology to boost the competitiveness of French agriculture.
A group of 31 scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Indian state agricultural universities, as well as Banaras Hindu University, have cracked the pigeonpea (arhar) genome.
Within days of this breakthrough, a team of international researchers led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics also claimed to have sequenced the genome in an entirely separate effort. Their partnership, called the International Initiative for Pigeonpea Genomics includes researchers from BGI–Shenzhen (China), the University of Georgia, the University of California—Davis, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and the National Centre for Genome Resources.
ICRISAT’s research, including details of the completed genome sequence, has been published on the website of the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Pigeonpea is India’s second most important pulse crop, and an important staple food for semi-arid regions of Asia, Africa and South America. The breakthrough is anticipated to lead to the development of improved varieties which may triple production. According to ICRISAT researchers, the sequencing of the genome will also significantly shorten the time it takes to breed new varieties.
“The mapping of the pigeonpea genome is a breakthrough that could not have come at a better time,” said ICRISAT director general William Dar in a press release. “Now that the world is faced with hunger and famine, particularly in the Horn of Africa, brought about by the worst drought of the decades, science-based, sustainable agricultural development solutions are vital in extricating vulnerable dryland communities out of poverty and hunger for good.”
In response to ICRISAT’s announcement, Nagender Kumar Singh, a senior scientist with ICAR, said the team welcomes ICRISAT’s research. “In the future, the two sequences should merge to improve the quality of pigeonpea [arhar],” he said.
The ThaI government’s 23 seed centers, formerly operating under the Department of Agricultural Extension of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, have now been transferred to the recently established Rice Department within the same ministry. The seed centers, with a new mandate of producing only rice seed, will no longer produce corn, sorghum, soybean, mungbean, peanut, sesame, cotton, kenaf or vegetable seed. Limited quantities of field crop seed are still produced by experimental stations of MOAC. Fortunately, domestic requirements for vegetable seed are well-supplied by private sector seed companies.
In addition, as the seed industry in Thailand becomes increasingly important in terms of export values and domestic requirements, leading public officials and stakeholders from seed companies, related associations and academic institutes have formed a group called the Seed Cluster, which is coordinated by the National Science and Technology Development Agency of the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The Seed Cluster’s strategic plan for 2007–11 has four main policies:
• to place farmers and the business sector at the same level of importance;
• to emphasize integration and cooperation among public and private sectors, farmers and their communities, and educational institutes;
• to change Thailand from a contracted seed producing country to the one that produces and exports seeds under its own brand names; and
• to build up knowledge and competency in science and technology for the Seed Cluster.
The main objectives of the five-year plan are to increase the value of annual seed export and to ascertain that the majority of Thai farmers can gain access to quality seed.
Despite its active seed industry and its long history of surplus in international seed trade, Thailand still has some specific regulatory problems with seed. These have been discussed in several meetings and seminars. The Department of Agriculture has set up a working group consisting of regulatory officers, plant breeders and seed specialists from both public and private sectors, representatives from seed companies and related organizations, to help solve specific regulatory problems.
—Pranom Saisawat, executive committee member, Seed Association of Thailand