International Seed Industry News

This page features a compilation and selection of global seed industry news briefs, summaries and leads, with an emphasis on news and events that impact or affect locales and countries in the APSA region (Asia-Pacific), including intra- and inter-regional affairs, trends and events regarding seed regulation, testing, legislation, phytosanitary issues, intellectual property rights, biotechnology (genomics, gene-editing) plant breeding, agronomy and cropping.
This page will be updated throughout the year, with most recent briefs listed first.

Q3 News

Wanted: Papers, experts on seed testing for ‘Quality Seed for Sustainable Agriculture’: The International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) is calling for paper submissions ahead of its next Seed Symposium, which will be held in conjunction with the 33rd ISTA Congress , scheduled 4-6 May, 2022 in Christchurch, New Zealand . The theme for the event is: Quality Seed for Sustainable Agriculture. The Symposium will “discuss all aspects of seed quality. . . the latest advances in seed science and technology, as well as an opportunity to exchange ideas and information,” bringing together “seed analysts, technologists, researchers and managers from universities, research institutes, government and the seed trade. The deadline for the submission of papers is 1 October, 22. More details on ISTA website here.  

APAC-focused gene editing webinar series on demand: August 18: The Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) in association with Korea Biosafety Clearing House (KBCH) and Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL)recently organized a webinar series on “Applications of Gene Editing in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security in Asia-Pacific Region” to address “a need for science-based, predictable and proportionate regulations. . . “ as well as “harmonization of approaches within the Asia-Pacific region. The series featured three webinars as follows: 

  • The first, held on July 21, was themed “Genome editing tools and its applications for targeted plant breeding” and can be watched on Youtube here.
  • The second, held on August 4, was themed “Advancing genome edited plants from lab to land”, and can be viewed on Youtube here. (starts at 40min)  
  • The third webinar in the series themed “Enabling Policies for Genome Editing in Agriculture” was held on August 18, 2021.and can be viewed here

Ramping up ToBRFV monitoring: Plant protection authorities across Europe  have increased  surveillance for Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus or ToBRFV, coinciding with detection in various countries in recent months. The virus, which mainly affects pepper (Capsicum sp.) and tomato, was confirmed in August in Slovenia by the country’s National Institute of Biology. According to the Slovenia Times, the virus was previously detected this past spring in pepper seeds imported from Czech Republic (the report says the seeds originated in China). This follows ToBRFV detection at a totato farm in the Swiss canton of Thurgau, also in August, and at a farm in Sainte Livrade, France on July 29, adding to recent detections in Bulgaria, Norway, Hungary and Italy, as outlined in this July 1 report, in addition to Austria at the end of June, and Poland in February. Such reports have prompted tighter surveillance of tomato and pepper seed imports to, from and within the region. According to a circular issued on July 13, “The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) asks seed companies to prepare for the consequences of EU rules for tomato and pepper seeds. The method for import testing for Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV) will be tightened from 15 July.” The measures refer to emergency measure (EU) 2020/1191 which prompted stricter monitoring (sampling and testing) of tomato and pepper seeds imported into the EU. The latest circular from the NVWA states that from 15 July 2021, all batches of tomato seed that fall under the sampled phytosanitary certificate for a sample that tests positive, “must be returned, destroyed or separately tested.” (See also Phyto measures news in China, Turkey below)

BSPB launches new website, payment portal: The British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) has chosen to “breathe new life into the visual identity of organisation” with the launch of a refreshed logo and website. In their own words, “The aim is to help farmers recognise the importance of plant breeding and to better educate the agricultural industry on how members are working to help feed the growing population. The new website has been designed to offer more information in one place.” In addition, the BSPS has announced a new payment portal to simplify farm saved seed payments, which the organization hopes will increase the percentage of declarations Find out more in recent newsletter here

EWS welcomes new R&D chief: East-West Seed is pleased to introduce Katalin Pákozdi, who from August 16 started as the company’s new Chief R&D Officer, and Managing Board member. Katalin replaces Simon Jan de Hoop, who will continue to support Katalin and the R&D leadership team under his new role as Innovation Counsel. Previously based in the UK as Driscoll's Plant Breeding Director for EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), Katalin has extensive breeding experience in peppers and strawberries. She did her postgraduate studies in Japan and the United States, and will be based in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, where she has relocated with her family. Find out more here

Food Price Index up 31% year-on-year: Though the Food Price Index (FFPI) of the Food and Agriculture Organization saw a slight month-on-month drop of 1.5 points (1.2%) its average of 123 points still represents a 29.1 point (31$) increase from July 2020. According to the latest FAO FFPI monthly news release (August 5) the drop in July “reflected declines in prices of cereals, dairy products and vegetable oils which more than offset increases in meat and sugar quotations for the second consecutive month. The report goes on to cite various factors affecting grain prices around the globe, including “cancelled orders of old crop maize by China, falling import demand for barley and sorghum, which contrast to rising wheat quotations linked to concerns over unfavorable output in North America, Europe and Russia, but more favorable in Argentina and Australia. International rice prices also hit two-year lows which were linked to high freight costs and logistical hurdles.The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index fell by 1.4 percent to 155.4 points, representing a five-month low, and “reflected lower prices for soy, rape and sunflowerseed oils, more than offsetting rising palm oil values.”  See full report for complete insights on cereal, vegetable oil, meat, diary and sugar indices here.  The next FAO FFPI monthly report is set to be published on September 2. 

Pandemic increases global hunger: report : July: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 (SOFI 2021) report highlights that 811 million people, or nearly one-tenth of the world population went hungry in 2020. The report is referenced as “an indication of what hunger and malnutrition would look like by 2030, in a scenario further complicated by the enduring effects of the pandemic.” The pandemic was blamed for increasing hunger, especially among children. According to the report, child malnutrition “persists at an alarming rate –an estimated 149 million children were stunted, 45 million were wasted and 39 million were overweight in 2020.” and it projects that an “additional 22 million children in low- and middle-income countries will be stunted, an additional 40 million will be wasted between 2020 and 2030 due to the pandemic. Find out more here

ISF Sec-gen re-affirms seed sector commitment to Sustainable Development: The International Seed Federation, represented by its Secretary General Michael Keller, was among private sector representatives who attended the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome on 26-28 Jul. "As I left the FAO headquarters after the closing of the pre-summit, I came away with a strong feeling that there are less boundaries now in our capacity to move forward. The UN Food Systems Summit is an innovative process by being inclusive and breaking silos. Perhaps our perspectives are different, but don't we all have food security and the SDGs as shared goals? Whether traditional knowledge or latest innovations, don't we need as much capacity and know-how as possible in order to progress? Let's be open and have trust in each other.” Read more here.  

ISF elects Second Vice President: APSA would like to congratulate Arthur Santosh Attavar, who was formally elected as ISF Second Vice President during the ISF General Assembly on 8 July. Attavar is the Chairman & Managing Director of Indo-American Hybrid Seeds, India, Pvt Ltd, a family-owned seed company established in 1965 that pioneered the first hybrid vegetable seeds in India in 1973. He is active in seed associations at both national, regional and international levels, and has been an active APSA member over the years. We look forward to what his leadership will bring to the region and global seed industries in the coming years. 


Surging freight, food inflation persists: July 9: Rising freight costs are fuelling concerns of food inflation in import-dependent markets. The cost to ship grains and oilseeds in bulk from production areas in the Americas and Black Sea have reportedly doubled this year. An article by Channel News Asia reported that the cost of shipping grains to Southeast Asia from Australia, which went from US$15 a tonne to US$30, and more than doubling if from the US Pacific Northwest to Asia, from $25 a year ago to $55 now. Ships carrying wheat from the Black Sea to Asia reportedly cost $65 a tonne compared to $35 last year. Reasons cited include the rising cost of bunker fuel, tighter vessel supply and longer port turnaround times due to COVID-19 requirements. The article also notes a double whammy with rising food inflation, citing Chicago futures quotes, including a 90% year on year jump for corn futures; 50% spike for soybeans, and 30% jump for wheat. This is especially problematic for food importers in Asia, the top crop consuming region. An example highlighted the plight of Indonesia, which now pays more $4 million more than it did a year ago for a 50,000-tonne cargo of food-grade wheat from the Black Sea, with the freight cost alone rising by US$1.5 million.

FAO DG calls for transformation of agri-food systems to achieve SDGs. July 27: Addressing world leaders at the opening of the Pre-Summit of the UN Food Systems Summit,  Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said that in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, there would need to be transformational changes to  policies, mind-sets, and business models. The Chinese national stressed that a holistic and coordinated approach is urgently needed to transform agri-food systems, which he said were not efficient, inclusive and sustainable in many parts of the world. The FAO Director-General also took the opportunity to announce the launch of the World Food Forum (WFF), which is scheduled 1 to 6 October 2021. See full coverage of the DG’s speech on Seed World here. Also, see tweet here

Answer to climate change, food security challenges in Asia: July 26: Dr Ravi Khetarpal, the Executive Secretary, Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) has penned an informative and timely editorial advocating for innovative and practical solutions to a number of looming challenges. In the article, titled “Gene editing – A tool to tackle climate change and to achieve food security in Asia Pacific”, Dr. Khetarpal notes “There are about 688 million people undernourished in the world, of which 351 million – more than half — live in the Asia- Pacific region.   Further, there are growing concerns that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic may have undone whatever gains were achieved towards food security in the region. The agriculture sector is facing the most negative consequences of unpredictable and severe climatic conditions; therefore, we need to have innovative and scientific solutions to ensure higher, diseases-free and nutrient-rich crop production. Asia Pacific region, which is home to 12 out of 46 Least Developed Countries, achieving food and nutrition security is very critical . . . . Read the full article here

CDC to withdraw EUA for Real Time RT-PCR COVID diagnostics: July 21: The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on 21 Jul issued a “Laboratory Alert” notifying that from December 31, 2021, it “will withdraw the request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the CDC 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel, the assay first introduced in February 2020 for detection of SARS-CoV-2 only. CDC is providing this advance notice for clinical laboratories to have adequate time to select and implement one of the many FDA-authorized alternatives .  .  . In preparation for this change, CDC recommends clinical laboratories and testing sites that have been using the CDC 2019-nCoV RT-PCR assay select and begin their transition to another FDA-authorized COVID-19 test.” The notice went on to “encourage” laboratories to consider adoption of a multiplexed method that can facilitate detection and differentiation of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses.” Meanwhile, demand for, and use of the RT-PCR tests to confirm COVID-19 cases continues to rise in most Asian countries. 

Lockdowns spreading: July 2021: Covid case numbers continue to surge throughout the region as governments double down on mass-testing and the imposing of new or renewed restrictions on business activity, movement,  vaccination mandates. Some specific Covid-19 highlights in July 2021 are covered on the respective country pages for Australia, Israel, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. See also, the latest lockdown updates and maps on stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions, school and workplace closures, and The government response stringency index. Also on stringency trends internationally, see this Oxford animated map 

Monsoon, summer storms sweep through China Seas: Jul 27: Several major storm systems have swept through swathes of the Philippines, Japan and China bringing  devastation to livelihoods, crops, infrastructure and public safety in the final week of July. See China, Japan and the Philippines news below. 

BPBS launches new website, weighs in on National Food Strategy: The British Society of Plant Breeders Ltd. (BPBS) has launched its new website, and plans to launch a new newsletter to share updates on plant breeding and the seed industry. In related news, the BPBS joined several leading crop improvement organizations in the United Kingdom to issue a joint statement responding to the UK’s recently announced National Food Strategy. Distributed through a news release, the joint-statement was issued on behalf of BPBS, the John Innes Centre, Rothamsted Research, The Sainsbury Laboratory and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), along with leading plant scientists at Britain’s top universities, who welcomed the UK’s recently announced National Food Strategy, which recognizes “the importance of crop genetics in delivering the productivity, resource use efficiency and nutritional quality gains needed to support a healthier, more resilient food system.” Specifically, the National Food Strategy highlighted the need to invest in the latest science – including new breeding techniques – “to improve productivity without polluting the land,” and discussed the potential to increase crop yields by up to 30% through advances in crop breeding. 

The joint call is for Government to ensure these innovations can take place by providing a proportionate and enabling regulatory framework for genetic innovation, alongside a more coherent R&D strategy for crop genetic improvement. More details here

ISF Virtual Seed Congress rallies global seed sector on key issues: July 7: The International Seed Federation from 5-7 July held its annual Congress event online for the second year in a row. The event attracted more than 1,000 participants from 80 countries around the world, and featured 11.5 hours of live broadcasts.  This year’s Virtual Congress was themed the “UN Food Systems Summit and the many roles of seed” to reiterate and emphasize the importance of seed in food supply chains and sustainable development. The program featured sessions facilitating presentations and discussions, including on the role of improved seed varieties and how to build the conditions to create crop diversification; engagement of the seed sector through the Declaration; a review of the current state of farmers' access to innovation and technology and the opportunities for public-private collaboration; seed supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19; possible consequences of a disrupted seed production chain to the global seed and food supply chain; the key benefits of a global seed production and supply chain and positive impacts on resilient food systems; Policy considerations - what kind of responses could be given from governments to ensure the seamless seed supply chain even in times of crisis; perspectives from seed industry, government, and research; impact of emerging pests and how emerging diseases play a part on the current challenges facing the seed industry; current challenges facing the seed industry due to restrictive regulation on the movement of seeds in the international arena; vision of seed business leaders on the engagement of their company related to sustainability and resilience in a changing business environment; engagement with all the stakeholders to increase the development of a sustainable value chain and the exchange on the role of the seed sector in the international discussions related to climate change. The sessions were broadcast to ISF members and other stakeholders via an interactive platform. For more information, see virtual congress webpage. See also, article about the event published on LinkedIn by ISF Communication Manager, Francine Sayoc.


Q2 News

ISF, seed industry observes IYPH close: June 24: The International Seed Federation (ISF) together with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and other seed sector stakeholders celebrated the closing of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH), which was marked during a ceremony 1 July. Though the IYPH was designated by the UN in 2020, it was extended through the first six months of 2021 due to disruptions last year linked to the pandemic.  “Plants are the foundation of life on earth and we are proud to have been part of this once in a lifetime opportunity to build engagement around protecting the world’s plant resources from pests. We will continue strengthening our  engagement to garner support to highlight the importance of healthy seed to plant health and to support the adoption of the International Day of Plant Health (IDPH),” said Michael Keller, Secretary General of ISF. The seed industry has been supportive of this initiative from the very beginning. Joining forces, various National Seed Associations (NSAs) and seed companies across the globe have organized different events in support of plant health. ISF also organized a number of events from virtual roundtables to a session with the IPPC. APSA continues to promote plant health, including through our social media campaign to recognize outstanding plant health professionals in the region. 

FTAs beyond TRIPS: July 2021: GRAIN has published an update of its dataset that tracks Free Trade Agreements, and specifically those with stipulations related to the commercialization of seeds and biodiversity, which GRAIN claims go beyond Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) minimal standards. The dataset, which summarizes details from FTAs since 1999, is found here.

ISS microgravity plant experiments: July 26: Seed World reports on two plant experiments from North Carolina State University (NC State) researchers returned to Earth after weeks on the International Space Station. Citing a release from NASA, Seed World notes that two researchers from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, had sent their two projects to space in early June. With their return the researcher will now study how the plants had reacted to extreme environments. See story here. 

Space plants to spice up astronauts’ diet: Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) may soon be firing up their taste buds with green chili-peppers germinated and grown in the Earth’s orbit. are adding something spicy to their diet: red and green chile peppers. The chile peppers, which came from from Hatch, New Mexico, were brought to the ISS in June. According to a news report “a team with the Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Research and Technology programs planted the seeds in a science carrier that slots into a plant growth chamber, the Advanced Plant Habitat, on the orbiting laboratory where astronauts raise crops. . . “ Expected cultivation time is about four months, and one key challenge to overcome is flower pollination.  Previous experiments that have yielded success include the growing of zinnias in 2015 and romaine lettuce in 2016. 

APSA and CSA cancel 2021 Asian Seed Congress: May 24:  APSA and the China Seed Association have decided to cancel the 2021 Asian Seed Congress, which was scheduled to be held in Shenzhen in December 2021. The decision was made in light of the sustained uncertainties about the ongoing Covid-19 situation. Announcing to decision in a letter to APSA members , the regional association’s President, Mr. Wichai Laocharoenpornkul explained: “We feel that a cautious approach is necessary due to stringent public health measures, advisories and policies persisting in many countries throughout the region, where mobility and the

capacity to organize large, physical gatherings are anticipated to be limited for the foreseeable future. Though we are optimistic about the situation improving, the health and safety of our

members are our highest priority.” Mr Wichai added that APSA will hold this year’s  Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Technical Sessions virtually, with more details to be announced by September.

Dialogue on Food Systems ‘transformation’ gaining momentum: International food, agricultural and germplasm organizations are amplifying advocacy efforts and engagements aiming for  ‘stronger’ and ‘better’ food and nutritional security in the coming years: A number of online forums have been held and briefs issued ahead of the United Nation’s Food Systems Pre- Summit 26-28 July in Rome, which will be a primer to the larger United Nations Food Systems Summit, planned in September.   One such brief was entitled ‘Fruits and Vegetables for Healthy Diets: Priorities for Food System Research and Action’,  which was prepared by scientists working for member organisations of AIRCA, who argue it necessary to address the issue of low fruit and vegetable consumption through a set of ‘push’, ‘pull’ and ‘policy’ actions. Brief here. In another brief released in April, entitled “Safeguarding and using Fruit and Vegetable

Biodiversity”, the authors from various organizations and who identify as “Research Partners of the Scientific Group for the Food Systems Summit April 2021”, advocate for a “global awareness campaign to safeguard and sustainably use fruit and vegetable biodiversity and a 10-year global rescue plan to reduce and reverse the decline in this biodiversity.” Such an effort, the authors suggest, would require an investment of at least 250 million USD. Brief here. The UN Food Systems main website is here. On one page, it notes that “107 initial propositions will undergo between May and June, a wide range of stakeholder consultations” in “close coordination with Food Systems Summit Dialogues and the work of the Scientific Committee”. That page also highlights five key ‘Action Tracks’: 1) Access to safe nutritious food for all; 2) Sustainable consumption; 3) Nature positive production; 4) Livelihood and equality and 5) Resilience -- each with a sub-set of specific action areas.

Registration for  ISF Virtual Congress opens: May 26: Highlighting the important role of seed to build resilient food systems in anticipation of the UN Food Systems Summit later this year will be the main focus of International Seed Federation (ISF)  led engagement this coming 5-7 July forr the global seed trade organization’s virtual congress, which will bring together industry stakeholders for online discussions to be streamed on ISF’s Channel World Seed. Registration opened on May 26 via congress.worldseed.org which also includes updated details on program and speakers. 

ISF postpones Barcelona World Seed Congress: May 6: The International Seed Federation has announced the postponement of hosting the ISF World Seed Congress in Barcelona, Spain. This year’s Congress, which was being organized by ISF and ANOVE -- the Spanish Association of Vegetable Breeders -- had initially planned to be held from 5-7 July, 2021 in the popular Spanish city, but according to an announcement, “We believe that resetting the scene for Barcelona next year would be a wise choice, as the city remains one of the most attractive business and tourism centres in Europe. Our Spanish NOC has been incredibly supportive, and we trust that our partnership will carry us through to next year. We are determined to provide you an onsite congress that serves as the quintessential global business and trading platform for the seed sector.” The announcement adds that “we will shift to a fully virtual congress setup, which will be accessible to everyone for free on 5-7 July 2021.” More details in announcement here

Asian lady scientist named 2021 Word Food Prize Laureate:  Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and Denmark whose parents descended from Indian agriculture migrant workers, has been named by the World Food Prize Foundation the 2021 World Food Prize Laureate. "Dr. Thilsted is the seventh woman to be awarded the World Food Prize and the first woman of Asian heritage. She is at the helm of our global progress in the UN Decade of Action and continues to stand at the forefront of innovation," said Barbara Stinson, President, WFPF. Dr. Shakuntala is being recognized for her groundbreaking research, critical insights and landmark innovations in developing holistic, nutrition-sensitive approaches to aquaculture and food systems, including through research on small native fish species in Bangladesh, which went on to benefit millions in Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Zambia. The 2021 Laureate Award Ceremony is scheduled to be held in October 2021. More details here.

APSA WIC holds its fourth annual Midterm Meeting: On Thursday, 8 April, APSA's Working Group of Integrated Vegetable Seed Companies (WIC) held its 2021 midterm meeting. This was the committee's first meeting of the year, and its fourth annual midterm meeting since  April, 2018. Usually a physical meeting in Bangkok, it was held virtually for the second consecutive year due to ongoing international travel restrictions and advisories. This year, the WIC welcomed four new members from Bangladesh Pakistan, Vietnam and China, who joined as observers. Highlights are as follows: On the WIC’s Train the Trainers initiative, there was a review of its initial module in 2020 that focused on plant breeders rights, as well as plans for the next module this year to address germplasms security practices for seed production. In addition to updates from the Seed Innovation and Protection Initiative (#SIPI) and Disease Resistance Terminology (DRT) project, there was an educational presentation on Digital Sequencing Initiative (DSI) and Plant Genetic Resources given by the Dutch Seed Association (Plantum), as well as presentations from the International Seed Federation on the Systems Approach initiative and regional phytosanitary update. Other initiatives discussed include a new University Connects project, as well as a report on COVID-19 2021 survey responses collected from WIC members, which will be shared to members in the near future. The next WIC meeting is scheduled for Q4 of 2021. APSA will keep its members updated. Meanwhile, a more detailed meeting summary is being prepared and will be circulated to members. 

APSA launched Seed Tech Webinar series: APSA’s Standing Committee on Seed Technology on April 1 held its first in a new series of webinars for APSA members. It featured three presentations: the first was an ‘Overview of Seed Health Testing for Pathogenic Plant Viruses’ (Reverse Transcriptase Conventional and Real-Time PCR, ELISA and Bioassay) by Thomas Baldwin, Head of Molecular Detection at the French Group for the Study and Control of Varieties and Seeds (GEVES); followed by a presentation on the ‘Method Validation for Virus Pathogens Testing’ by Daniel Bakker, Senior Researcher, R&D Department, the Netherlands Inspection Service for Horticulture (Naktuinbouw); and wrapped up with an ‘Overview of Phytosanitary Regulation’ by Michael Leader, the chair of APSA’s Standing Committee on International Trade & Quarantine. Active APSA members are invited to log in and watch all three presentations, download the presentation slides via this link: Stand by for details about the next webinar.  


Q1 News

Global supply chains glitch from shipping incidents: March-April: Agitating an already-stressed global supply chain have been recent noteworthy shipping-lane incidents, which highlight just how vulnerable international cargo transport is. Namely, from 23-29 March, the blockage of the Suez Canal by the giant Ever Given ship, had delayed the delivery of various types of cargo on some 450 ships, incurring losses of some US$10 billion, as highlighted here. Also of note, one recent article highlights the alarming trend of thousands of shipping containers being lost at sea annually: in 2020, some 3,000 containers were lost, and so far in 2021, it’s estimated that 1,000 containers, valued at $54.5 million dollars, have been lost in accidents pinned to both human error and natural diasters. The article notes that some 226 million containers are shipped annually. 

Sustainable production, plant breeding book from US, EU seed sector stakeholders: 26 March: A new book, released by the Institute on Science for Global Policy and organized with support from the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and Euroseeds, has been published. The 105-page book, titled, “Sustainable Agriculture: the Role of Plant Breeding Innovation”, summarizes the outcomes of a conference held on 17-18 November 2020, which “engaged major scientific, technological, private sector, governmental, and public advocacy communities involved in food and agricultural systems from the EU and the U.S.” At the conference -- and summarized in the book -- “The wide range of stakeholders reached consensus on some key priority issues and areas of action that will be essential going forward. These include “Joint acknowledgement of the need for a systematic approach to sustainable production that is responsive and adaptable to local conditions;  Shared vision of the importance of achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the need for consensus on the effective use of PBI in that effort; Common recognition to continue science-based open discussion and dialogue with a broad range of stakeholders; and Collective desire to optimize the role of plant breeding to efficiently and expeditiously provide new products to support long-term sustainability in achieving SDGs. For more details, and download link, see ASTA news here

ISHI-Veg updates tomato seed Pepino mosaic virus detection method: The International Seed Health Initiative for Vegetable Crops (ISHI-Veg) -- a technical committee of the International Seed Federation or ISF -- has published the latest revised edition for ‘Detection of Pepino mosaic virus in Tomato Seed’. Available here on the ISF website, it is the fifth version  since 2007; changes noted include “Protocol presented in accordance with ISHI-Veg’s protocol guidance; Crop name Lycopersicon esculentum removed; and a table with the controls added to the ELISA section. ISHI-Veg’s methods for seed health testing are internationally recognized as reference methods and accepted as industry standards.

ToBRFV: first trial results confirm high resistance level: Enza Zaden has published details about one of its tomato varieties that has shown “High Resistance” or HR to tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV). The news follows the company claiming to have discovered the ToBRFV HR gene. Commenting on the latest trials in Mexico, Oscar Lara, Senior Tomato Product Specialist said, “We see no symptoms at all in the plants, while the disease pressure is very high. More details here.

Legal recreational cannabis closer to green light in Mexico: Mexico's lower house of Congress has passed legislation that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Mexico's Chamber of Deputies on March 10 passed legislation that would legalize marijuana for recreational, medical, and scientific uses. The bill was passed with 316 votes in favor and 129 against. It would only allow recreational marijuana use for those 18 and older and with a permit. The bill will now have to pass Mexico's upper house of Congress, the Senate. The bill was previously passed by the Senate in November, but it will have to be voted on again following changes made in the lower chamber. The deadline for the Senate to vote is reportedly at the end of April More details on DW and Reuters.

Global seed sector commits to UN goals, declares engagement to deliver sustainable food systems: March 16. Representatives of seed companies and associations representing all regions of the world have signed a declaration committing to actively support achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and proactively demonstrate their extensive and diverse contributions towards sustainable food systems, while calling for more urgent public private cooperation. The “Seed Sector Declaration”, an initiative of the International Seed Federation, was signed  as a part of engagement efforts ahead of the UN’s Food Systems Summit, scheduled for September 2021. To view the full text of the Declaration and its signatories, visit ISF website here.

 

UN adopts resolution for 2023 Intl Year of Millets: The United Nations General Assembly on March 3 adopted a resolution to formally declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets. The adoption was announced as part of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.  See resolution here. According to a media report, the resolution, which was “initiated by India with Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Russia and Senegal and was co-sponsored by over 70 nations” is “... aimed at raising awareness about the health benefits of the grain and their suitability for cultivation under changing climatic conditions.

 

Smart Food system conference videos released: Coinciding with the the UN adoption of a resolution to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets, organizers of a recent South Asia and Africa focused FoodTec conference have announced releasing all presentations and panel discussions from the two day conference, held at the end of last year on, via the Youtube platform. The conference, which was themed on “Food Trends, Opportunities and Driving Markets for Smart Food”, was organized as part of the “Smart Food” initiative, which has a key objective “to diversify staples across Africa and Asia…” with a “focus on small holder farmers across Africa and Asia, to ensure that rural communities benefit from the increased demand, and from the health and nutritional benefits of Smart Foods.” ” Following are respective presentation links:

 

  • South-south Collaboration, Driving Smart Food by H.E. Willy K Bett, High Commissioner of Kenya to India here
  • Ashish Sinha, Deputy High Commissioner India to Kenya here
  • Dr Rebbie Harawa, Research Program Director, Eastern & Southern Africa Program, ICRISAT, Kenya here
  • Dr Tarun Bajaj, Director, Agricultural and Processed Food Products. Export Development Authority (APEDA), Government of India here
  • Alternatively, all videos and the list of speakers can be found here.  

 

Syngenta Foundation’s variety commercialization guideline: The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture recently finalized its Seeds2B variety commercialization guidelines. Created to help strengthen the seed supply chain, the guidelines are organized into a set of tools covering all the necessary steps and activities “that will ensure that only relevant varieties are developed and that seeds are delivered successfully.” More details about the guidelines and commercial model will be featured in an upcoming issue of Asian Seed Magazine. 


Access to Seeds Index 2021 methodology finalized: The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) on 2 March launched the final methodology for the 2021 Access to Seeds Index. Thee methodology was finalized over a 6-week period of stakeholder consultations from mid-December, 2020 to the end of January, 2021. “We were pleased to receive a high level of feedback from both companies and associated stakeholders and would like to thank all of you that were involved. We look forward to the next part of the journey with you, looking beyond our next period of data collection and company engagement to the launch of the third edition of the Access to Seeds Index at the UN Food System Summit. This is when we can use the results to collectively take action towards our shared mission of incentivising business impact towards a sustainable future that works for everyone. “ Click here to download the methodology.

ISF appeals for recognition, implementation of IPPC standards for seed: In response to increasingly restrictive phytosanitary measures being implemented on seed imports in many countries, the International Seed Federation (ISF) is calling on governments “to recognize and implement international standards drafted by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), including ISPM 38 and 11, in order to facilitate international agricultural trade and deliver food security.”  The appeal, expressed in a statement on February 15, asks that “when assessing pest risk and determining appropriate phytosanitary measures to apply, governments should always consider the intended use of the seeds and the adoption of multiple equivalent options so as not to create additional barriers to international trade. Governments should also refrain from introducing prescriptive seed testing protocols that have not been validated internationally. In some instances, phytosanitary measures that are being imposed are not even necessary, as seed is not a pathway for the entry, establishment or spread of the pest in question. Related headlines include:

Pest screening for seed imports ramps up: January 2021: From April 1, all phytosanitary certificates issued for EU-bound seeds of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), as well as peppers (Capsicum spp.) must be based on a PCR lab report certifying the seed as free of Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV). This is in addition to other strict declarations and requirements related to seed production, inspection, origin and traceability, as initially mandated in an EU regulation announced last August. Seed industry reps were informed about the new EU seed import requirements through a memo circulated in January, which linked to details of amendments to the regulation, “Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/1191 on measures to prevent the introduction into and the spread within the Union of Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV)” Previously-accepted ELISA test results will no longer be sufficient to meet import requirements. In related news, new testing and declaration requirements for the import of seeds of solanaceous and other economically important crop species have recently been announced through WTO Notifications from  Thailand, Turkey,  Japan and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan, China). See the respective news sections of the former three countries below for more details, and for Thailand, go to Thailand news industry page for original announcement news, published by APSA in January. 

International Plant Health conference in Helsinki cancelled: 9 February 2021. A decision was made on 2 February to cancel the International Plant Health (IYPH) Conference, previously scheduled to be held in Helsinki from 28 June to 1 July 2021. Citing ongoing Covid-19 travel restrictions, the decision was made by IYPH International Steering Committee, including representatives of member countries of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), contracting parties to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), representatives of plant health stakeholder groups and FAO officials, who had met to discuss the action plan for the remainder of the IYPH, which will formally conclude with a closing ceremony, planned on 1 July 2021, “given the extension agreed by FAO to continue gaining momentum for plant health despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” See IPPC announcement here, as well as list and links of all related IYPH events here.

Registration open for 2021 World Seed Congress: February 2021: The International Seed Federation (ISF) is partnering with ANOVE -- the Spanish Association of Vegetable Breeders -- to co-organize the 2021 World Seed Congress  in Barcelona, Spain, which is scheduled to be held from 5-7 July, 2021. Registration for the in-person cum virtual meeting was launched 2 February, and will be open until 15.00 CEST on 28 June. For more information, visit the Congress website

Four hemp varieties pass AOSCA variety certification review: February 2021: Four varieties of hemp -- low-THC cultivars of the species Cannabis Sativa -- have passed rigorous standards of the national Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) variety review board. The varieties, developed by Arcadia Biosciences Inc, will thus be eligible for certified seed production in accordance with requirements as stipulated by the US Seed Act for new varieties to be verified as distinct, uniform and stable (DUS). According to a news release, as reported in several outlets, including by Seed World here, hemp varieties that have successfully passed through the AOSCA variety review process are eligible for the production of certified hemp seed, transplants or clones… AOSCA certification signifies to the industry that GoodHemp seed is produced to the highest standards for genetic purity, uniformity, high germination and feminization rates, and varietal identity. The four AOSCA-certified GoodHemp varieties are described as follows:

  • Umpqua: CBD dominant, early photoperiod variety for both the smokable and CBD extraction markets. Prized for its unique terpene profile. (Available now.)
  • Rogue: CBD dominant, high yielding intermediate photoperiod variety for the CBD extraction markets. Brings exceptional yields under low planting densities. (Available now.)
  • Santiam: CBD dominant, early photoperiod variety with exceptional utility in northern latitudes for both the smokable and CBD extraction markets. Delivers step-change yield potential. (Available now.)
  • Potomac: CBD dominant, full season photoperiod. Produces large plants and a heavy yield, best suited for biomass. (Available soon.)
  Syngenta digital ag services utilized across 50.5mn hectares: February 2021: Syngenta Group has announced that it achieved a milestone of having some 125 million acres of farmland actively managed by growers using its digital services. According to an announcement, the Group’s digital services range includes “advanced scouting, seeds selection, imagery decision support, weather risk management, financial planning, crop and farm operations management.” Read more about the achievement here
 

ISF Launches ‘Channel World Seed’: January 2021: The International Seed Federation has launched a new online platform to disseminate timely information about the global seed sector, as well as exclusive content for its members. The channel, hosted on ISF’s Youtube Channel here was launched formally on January 25 via an introductory video here.


French Ag Minister opposes ‘GMO regulation’ of gene-edited crops: January 2021: The Agriculture Minister of France, Julien Denormandie was quoted in numerous media reports acknowledging that crops developed using gene-editing techniques are different to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and thus should not be regulated as such. Read more on the Genetic Literacy Project website here.
World food price index in 2020 at three-year high: January 2021:
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Food Price Index ticked up to 107.5 points in December, representing a 2.2% increase over November. The index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of commonly-traded food commodities, averaged 97.9 points for all of 2020, which is three-year high and a 3.1 percent increase over 2019. The index is calculated from four sub-indices: the FAO Cereal Price Index(+6.6% in 2020 vs 2019); the FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index (+19.1% in 2020); The FAO Dairy Price Index (-1% in 2020); The FAO Meat Price Index (-4.5% in 2020) and The FAO Sugar Price Index (+1.1% in 2020) Full details here.

Access to seeds new methodology feedback:
egardig the publication of the draft methodology for the 2021 Access to Seeds Index. This draft methodology, including the already released scope of the Index is still open for public consultation  until January 31st.  The methodology has been thoroughly reviewed based on stakeholders' feedback and addresses new developments in the industry. The 2021 Access to Seeds Index methodology has been simplified by reducing the number of indicators, and it has been aligned with the World Benchmarking Alliance's food system transformation approaches. 

Key revisions and updates compared to the 2nd Access to Seeds Index methodology include:

  • Sharpened focus of measurement areas and reduced the number of indicators from 59 to 32 indicators.
  • Removed the four indicator categories from measurement areas, i.e., Commitment, Performance, Transparency, and Leadership.
  • Cancelling the option of providing data under nondisclosure.
  • The index remains focused on food crops.
  • Including questions on implications of Covid-19 on seed business activities

Feedback can be provided by emailing: info@accesstoseeds.org and/or by registering to one or all of our public consultation webinars (see below for registration links). We are seeking input from all stakeholders so please feel free to share this opportunity within your network. 

UPOV contributions on smallholders open till 1 February:
As a first step towards the possible development of guidance regarding the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers, the UPOV Council has sent a circular to members of the Union and observers requesting contributions on their experience and on their views on the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers.  Contributions  an be submitted to the Office of the Union untill February 1, 2021 via email (upov.mail@upov.int) and should cover the following:

(a) experience on the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers; and/or

(b)    views on the implementation of the exception of acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes in relation to smallholder farmers.

The Office of the Union will draft guidance text taking into consideration the findings of the “Report and Recommendations of the project ‘Options to interpret the notion of private and non-commercial use as included in Article 15. 1. I of the UPOV 1991 Convention’” and its flowchart, in conjunction with the contributions in reply to this Circular.  A first draft of the guidance to the Consultative Committee will then be circulated for comments by correspondence in conjunction with a compendium of the contributions received in reply to this Circular.

Based on the comments received on the first draft of the guidance, an updated version of the draft guidance will be prepared for consideration of the Consultative Committee at its session in 2021, together with consideration of the status (e.g. explanatory note, guidance document, FAQ) that any agreed guidance should have.

Food insecure Asians doubled in 2020:  January 2021:
According to a United Nations report, as reported in Nikkei, and tweeted by the FAO,  the number of “food insecure” Asians last year doubled to 265 million. The report cites the pandemic as pushing an estimated 140 million people in the Asia-Pacific region into extreme poverty.  Read report here.

ISF declares ‘seed as the starting point’:
The International Seed Federation is encouraging seed and agriculture business leaders to “join the conversation on food systems transformation and national food policies.” by signing its “Declaration: Seed as the starting point: Our sector takes part in the journey to the Food Systems Summit 2021.” launched ahead of the United Nations Food Systems Summit, which is planned to be held in September 2021. For more information about ISF declaration,
see here.
 
ASTA 2020 Annual Report: 
The American Seed Trade Association has published its 2020 Annual Report, which includes details about activities, strategy, finances and more. See the
ASTA annual report here
 
Access to Seeds 2021 Index open for feedback on methodology: December 2020:
The Access to Seeds Inde has published its draft methodology for the 2021 Access to Seeds Index. This draft methodology including the already released scope of the Index will be open for public consultation for a six-weeks public consultation period, from December 16 until January 31.  The methodology has been thoroughly reviewed based on stakeholders' feedback and addresses new developments in the industry. The 2021 Access to Seeds Index methodology has been simplified by reducing the number of indicators, and it has been aligned with the World Benchmarking Alliance's food system transformation approaches.

Key revisions and updates compared to the 2nd Access to Seeds Index methodology include:

  • Sharpened focus of measurement areas and reduced the number of indicators from 59 to 32 indicators.
  • Removed the four indicator categories from measurement areas, i.e., Commitment, Performance, Transparency, and Leadership.
  • Cancelling the option of providing data under nondisclosure.
  • The index remains focused on food crops.
  • Including questions on implications of Covid-19 on seed business activities

Stakeholders are invited to provide feedback by filling in the downloadable feedback form provided on the website and sending an email to info@accesstoseeds.org.

 

2020 News

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UN drug body reclassifies cannabis: DECEMBER 2020:
A simple, narrow majority of 53 Member State representatives on the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) voted on December 2 to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drug, which includes substances that the CND considers “particularly liable to abuse and to produce ill effects, and such liability is not offset by substantial therapeutic advantages”. As reported by the UN here, and in this note, the historic vote resulted in 27 members in favour of removing cannabis from the category against 25 against, and one abstention. The CND Members also voted to have cannabis and its extracts to remain on Schedule 1, which make it possible for governments to formally recognize the medicinal and therapeutic potential of cannabis, and thus regulate it. Only four Asia-Pacific countries were among the 27 voting in favor of the removal of cannabis from the ‘risky drug’ schedule. They were Thailand, India, Nepal and Australia. The other 10 Asia-Pacific reps on the CND -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Bahrain, Japan and China -- all voted against. Nonetheless, most of these countries have movements to decriminalize or legalize the plant and its material, including the seeds. Click here for our report on the Asia-Pacific cannabis seed industry

Solomon Islands expands seeds program: December 2020:
The government (The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock) of Solomon Islands is extending a program to distribute vegetable seeds and farming tools across its provinces. As of December 1, a total of 12,933 packets of seeds had been distributed. The program, which was initiated in June as part of a Covid-19 Livelihood Sector Support scheme, with support from the Australian Government and in partnership with the UN's Development Programme, aims to encourage households to plant gardens in order to subsidise food costs. Read more from Radio New Zealand.

FAO Food Price Index rises sharply: November 2020:
Global food commodity prices rose to a nearly six-year high in November, according to a December 3 press release from the The  Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The monthly increase was the sharpest since July 2012, putting the index at its highest level since December 2014. The Index tracks changes in the international prices of the most globally traded food commodities. Among its sub indices, the Oil Price Index spiked 14.5 in November, which was linked to an ongoing rally in palm oil prices. The Cereal Price Index rose 2.5% from October, from rising wheat export prices linked to reduced harvest prospects in Argentina, and rising maize prices tied to lower output expectations in the US, Ukraine, as well as large purchases by China.The Sugar Price Index rose 3.3 % month-on-month “amid growing expectations of a global production shortfall in the upcoming marketing season as unfavorable weather conditions drove weaker crop prospects in the European Union, the Russian Federation and Thailand.” The Dairy Price and Meat Price Indices both rose 0.9 percent from October. Click here to read the full report.

 

August 2020

New IYPH 2020 Postage Stamps 

Japan, United Arab Emirates, Korea and Kyrgyzstan are among the 15 countries to issue IYPH postage stamps. Japan and the UAE recently announced their new designs earlier in August while Korea and Kyrgystan had issued stamps earlier this year. The other 11 countries include Finland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, the Vatican, Sierra Leone and Togo. Stay tuned for the full story in Asian Seed Q3 issue in September. 

APSA members offered 20% discount for Virtual Seed Industry Course

Sathguru Management Consultants is offering APSA members a special 20% discount off registration for Cornell Sathguru Executive Education programs, namely for the upcoming Virtual Live Seed Industry Program (SIP2020), which will be held 2-6 November. The regular fee, including tax is $472 per participant, but with the special concession, APSA members can register for only $378, which includes tax. For more information about the SIP2020, see this video here, and download the brochure here

ICARDA publishes Seed Info issue number 59 & Annual Report

The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) has published the 59th edition of Seed Info … Contents include a “Seed Security Response to COVID-19” document, which presents critical responses needed in the immediate and midterm  to mitigate negative impacts on farmers, in addition to news updates from ISTA, UPOV and the World Seed Partnership. Seed Info aims to stimulate information exchange and regular communication between seed staff in the Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) region and beyond, strengthening national seed programs and thus improving the supply of high-quality seed to farmers. Download latest issue here. In other ICARDA news, the center in early Auggust announced the publication of its 2019 Annual Report, which can be accessed here. 

ISTA announces latest pest list reference, technical committee program

The International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) on August 5 announced the release of the latest version of its Reference Pest List, which ncludes 56 new scientific articles, links to EPPO Global database, countries requesting phytosanitary status for pests in seeds and much more. The list can be accessed here. In other ISTA news, the association has announced its Technical Committees’s Working Programme for the 2019-2022, which can be accessed here

APEC Ag Biotech something

APSA Executive Director Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey was featured as a speaker at the APEC High-level Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology (HLPDAB) recent Webinar Series, which was held online between 17-19 August. The theme of the sessions was “Benefits, Sustainability, and Promise of Precision in Agricultural Biotechnology” More details to be shared. 

Asia-Pacific seed industry addresses unsolicited seed packages

In response to reports of mysterious, illegal and/or unsolicited packages of seeds mailed to recipients in several countries in July and August (see below), the Asia and Pacific Seed Association (APSA) encourages all of its members, stakeholders and associates to uphold best industry practices, and to fully comply with established rules and standards for international seed movements and phytosanitary measures.  See full story here. 

Space breeding taking off with seeds sent to space

Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Japan, Australia, Thailand, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the US plan to send plant seeds into earth’s orbit this October. According to this article in the Taipei Times, citing the National Space Organization (NSPO), the seeds will be sent as part of the Space Seeds for Asian Future program, developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and involving several other nations. A total of 16 kinds of seeds are planned to be sent to the International Space Station (ISS), where they would stay for about four months. Most of the seeds selected are endemic plants but some are crop seeds. For the Taiwanese seeds, the NSPO collaborated with National Chung Hsing University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, which is overseen by the Council of Agriculture, to choose the seeds, which include seeds of Formosa lambsquarters, Phalaenopsis equestris (a kind of “butterfly orchid, sunflowers and chili pepper seeds, The weight of the seeds to be sent are 10g, 1g, 20g and 16g respectively. The seeds have already been sent to Japan and will be forwarded to the US next month, to be returned to Taiwan in February next year. Other participating nations include Thailand and Australia, who will send the seeds of their national flowers, the ratchaphruek and the golden wattle; New Zealand will send seeds of the pohutukawa, an endemic plant; Indonesia will send celery and onion seeds; and Malaysia will send the seed of holy basil. More details here


In related news in China, a "Sakura Space Breeding" update was revealed at a press conference on the morning of August 7 in Guangzhou. Cherry blossom seeds of four selected varieties that were displayed will be sent into orbit with other seeds, seedlings, microorganisms, and fungi for space breeding experiments, in which they will be subject to mutagenesis, a technique that could yield superior new sakura varieties with different flower colors, rich flower types, different flowering periods, and stronger resistance to disease and pests, and better tolerance to extreme temperatures. After this batch of cherry blossom seeds returns to earth, the space-exposed seeds with certain mutations will be germinated in Conghua, Guangzhou. More details here   

 

JUNE AND JULY 2020

United Nations Chief urges secure food systems in face of hunger crisis 

The United Nations’ Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned  that as much as 820 million people would go hungry, including 144 million children. Quoted in an article published by the Manila Times in June, Guterres estimated that some 49 million additional people would fall into extreme poverty this year due to the Covid-19 crisis, which would thus increase the number of people at risk of acute food or nutrition insecurity. 

ISF urges governments to continue to facilitate international seed movements

The Secretary-General of the International Seed Federation, Michael Keller on 6 July, released a new statement asking governments “to continue facilitating the international movement of seed and not to impose restrictive measures.” The letter cites the position of the World Health Organization’s guidelines for food business that state: “It is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging …” Mr Keller goes on to stress that “ Seed companies have and will continue to take all necessary measures to guarantee the health and safety of workers who are involved in the shipment of seed.” Read full statement here

ISF, CSA & CNSTA: ‘3rd Round Table Meeting on Plant Breeding Innovation’ online 

The International Seed Federation(ISF) joined with the China Seed Association(CSA) and the China National Seed Trade Association(CNSTA) to organize the online session on June 23. In addition to reps from the three organization, the session was also attended by some 300 representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Seed Industry Associations, Research Units, Seed Companies in China and seed associations and stakeholders from Japan, the United States and Australia. A report from the session will be published in Asian Seed Magazine, Q3 edition. 

FAO names new assistant to DG & regional rep for Asia and the Pacific

South Korean national Mr Jong-Jin Kim has been named the Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. Effective since 1st July 2020, Mr. Jong-Jin succeeds Dr. Kundhavi Kadiresan, who held the positions since 2015 until December 2019, when she completed her tenure. Mr Kim, a national of the Republic of Korea, has a long and distinguished career in public service. He joined FAO in 2013 as Director of South-South Cooperation and Resource Mobilization Division (TCS) and immediately prior to his present appointment, he had been serving as FAO’s Deputy Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) in Bangkok, Thailand. Read more details on the FAO’s website here

FAO issues Asia-Pacific policy recommendations to cope with Covid-19 impacts on food 

To address serious threats of the COVID-19 pandemic on food and nutrition security in Asia and the Pacific, the FAO on June 5 published a report highlighting food supply chain trends in 11 countries. These include Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam. The report includes several general policy recommendations for governments, including: controlling the spread of the virus through physical distancing and management of fear among labourers working in food supply chains; expanding social protections through “more-inclusive” economic stimulus measures, “more generous” benefits to ensure food access for all, and reduction of administrative burdens for funds access; governments working with the private sector to solve disruptions in food supply chains; avoiding export restrictions in international trade and building resilience into food systems. Read full report here

2020 World Food Laureate is an Indian American Soil Scientist 

Congratulations to Dr. Rattan Lal, a native of India and  citizen of the United States, who has been awarded the 2020 #WorldFoodPrize. Dr. Lal, a soil scientist and distinguished professor at Ohio State University, is recognized for promoting ” innovative soil-saving techniques benefiting the livelihoods of more than 500 million smallholder farmers, improving the food and nutritional security of more than two billion people and saving hundreds of millions of hectares of natural tropical ecosystems.”  See biography here as well as this news on Ohio State website

East-West Seed names two new members to its Supervisory Board.

Mary Sue Rogers and Maaike Groot have been appointed as the newest members of East-West Seed’s Supervisory Board. The news, whicch was announced by the leading vegetable seed firm on 1 July, follows Simon Groot, Dietrich Schmidt and Johnny Santos formally retiring from the Supervisory Board. Mary Sue Rogers previously held various executive and non-executive positions in the areas of Human Resources and Talent Development, while Maaike Groot joined East-West Seed in 2014, helping to externally position the company and building partnerships, and will continue in her present Public Affairs role at the company.  

ISTA revises procedures for Orange & Blue certificates & other updates

The International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) recently revised the procedure for ‘How to complete ISTA certificates’, specifically on how to complete the ISTA Orange International Seed Lot Certificate (OIC) and ISTA Blue International Seed Sample Certificate (BIC). The revised procedures can be downloaded here. In other ISTA news, the association has published high quality photos from a recent round of Proficiency Tests (PT) and Other Seed Determination (OSD) on its website, which can be downloaded here, and the association also has made public an ISTA  Information Session, which was recorded on 28 May 2020 in the form of a virtual meeting. Click here to watch.  

UPOV update on PLUTO plant variety database

UPOV on July 3 held a webinar to provide updates on its PLUTO Plant Variety database, which will be introduced from November 2020. The online session also was an opportunity to provide users to provide feedback on the design and new features. From November, the PLUTO database will provide two levels of service including free and premium services. See full webinar on Youtube here

Meet new Chair of ASTA  

John Latham, the President of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds in Iowa, USA, has commenced his tenure as the Chair of the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), taking over from Wayne Gale of Stokes Seeds. John has a long history of service with ASTA, having previously held positions as Vice Chair, North Central Region Vice President, and Chairman of Seed First Political Action Committee. He also has served as chairman of the ASTA’s Corn & Sorghum Division and Legislative and Legal Affairs Committee. John also follows his father Bill Latham who was President of ASTA in 1998. More info can be found here on ASTA’s website, as well as in this video introductory video, in which Mr. Latham  says he will prioritize innovation and gene editing 

Grow Asia webinar on eCommerce & social media opportunities

During its second Grow Asia Digital Learning Series session in 2020, a GrowAsia webinar on June 30 explored opportunities in using chat and social media platforms to reach farmers. The session featured findings from a study GrowAsia conducted with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and talks from a number of interesting experts, including Elizabeth Hernandez from Corteva Agriscience, Kim Huat Low from Yara International, Phatthanai Suwanvongkij from East-West Seed and Christina Lee from The Goat Agency. More details, as well as full list of speakers and webinar video here.  

Argentina adds new requirements to regulated pest list for chili and tomato seeds

From June 16, 2020, Argentina added new requirements to its list of regulated pests for Capsicum annuum and Solanum lycopersicum originating in countries in which the pest is present. The notified text provides for the inclusion of the pests Columnea latent viroid, Pepper chat fruit viroid, Tomato apical stunt viroid, Xanthomonas euvesicatoria pv. perforans, Xanthomonas cynarae pv. gardneri and Xanthomonas euvesicatoria pv. euvesicatoria on the list of regulated pests and phytosanitary requirements governing the importation of Capsicum annuum and Solanum lycopersicum seeds for propagation from countries in which the pest is present. The requirements were initially notified to the WTO in January here

CRISPRcon returns virtually September and October

CRISPRcon, “a unique forum bringing diverse voices together to discuss the future of CRISPR and related gene editing technologies across applications in agriculture, health, conservation” will be conducted virtually this year “with a series of discussions exploring gene editing’s role in COVID-19 testing and treatment, racial disparities and inequities, strategies to address climate change, and other pressing issues.. The 10 webinars under five themes will be held online. More info here. Stand by for more updates.

Locusts swarms devour swathes of Asian farmland 

Locust infestations continue to spread across Asia. As reported widely thus far in 2020, desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria) have eaten their way through crops in India, Pakistan, Iran and Saudia Arabia, with Nepal being the latest South Asian country to report detection. As reported here, officials in Nepal are initially encouraging people to catch the insects instead of using pesticides. Farmers have been offered up to 25 rupees (21 US cents) for every kg of the locusts, which can be fed to chickens and other livestock. Mosquito nets are reportedly effective to catch the pests. Meanwhile a different crop-hungry locust species is feeding on farms in China, Laos and Vietnam. According to this report, a swarm of the yellow-spined bamboo locusts (Ceracris kiangsu) has destroyed at least 277ha of bamboo forests and corn fields in eight provinces across Vietnam, including Son La, Dien Bien, Bac Kan, Cao Bang, Lang Son, Phu Tho, Quang Ninh and Thanh Hoa.  The swarms reportedly came to Vietnam from China via Laos,  reaching Thanh Hoa province by early June and Dien Bien Province by July 20. 

Floodwaters engulf crops, homes and livelihoods across region

Bad weather has caused extreme hardship for farmers in East and South Asia in June and July. By July 19, in India’s Assam and neighbouring Nepal, nearly four million people had been displaced by heavy flooding with a death toll of at least 189, according to this report, noting that the Brahmaputra River, which flows through China’s Tibet, India and Bangladesh, has flooded crops and triggered mudslides, displacing millions. According to this report, thousands of hectares of farmland were destroyed in northern Bangladesh, with floodwaters drowning out paddy fields, vegetable farms and seedbeds, affecting some four million people in 30 districts, especially in Lalmonirhat, Kurigram, Tangail, Thakurgaon, Gaibandha, Nilphamari, Sirajganj, Bogura, Manikganj, Sunamganj and Sylhet, among others. Aside from paddy, jute, maize, green chillies, and other vegetables have become submerged. In Pakistan, it was reported that ‘Glacier floods’ were estroying crops in Chitral. According to Xinhua, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) feared that the country would face flash floods triggered by a glacier lake outburst flooding in the country’s northwest district of Chitral. The fear of glaciers bursting was linked to a prevailing heatwave. 

China has especially been affected by excess rain, flooding and overflowing rivers. At a briefing by the State Council on July 13, it was revealed that, since June, a total of 433 rivers across the country had reached or breached peak levels. The Yangtze River, the upper reaches of the Yellow River, the Xijiang River and Beijiang River in the Pearl River Basin, and the Taihu Lake were all at historical flood levels. The briefing was also told that since the beginning of this year, more than 2.24 million people have been displaced by disaster, with floods affecting 27 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities across the country. By official count, there were 141 dead or missing, 29,000 houses destroyed, and direct economic losses of 86.16 billion yuan ($12.3 billion), and some 516,000 hectares of cropland destroyed. According to another report by Sina.com floods this year have especially affected Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Chongqing, Sichuan, and Guizhou and the crop area affected was more than 2.67 million hectares. Flooding and/or drought has also affected AustraliaIndia and Thailand during this time

Origin of seed packets a mystery

China Seed Association has issued a statement China authorities have are looking into allegations whether mysterious seed packets, reportedly sent to random addresses in the US,  originated in China. According to Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin, “Plant seeds are articles prohibited as imports (or in transit) or admitted conditionally for UPU member countries. China Post strictly follows the UPU provisions and prohibits seeds from conveyance by post. USPS recently found some packages of seeds with address labels suggesting they were sent from China. After verification with China Post, those address labels turned out to be fake ones with erroneous layouts and entries. China Post has contacted US Postal Service, asking it to send those fake packages to China for investigation.” News of the packets had circulated onlinee in July, prompting the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (APHIS) to issue statements on the matter. 

 

MAY 2020

APSA, CNSTA unite seed industry voice in  webinar on Covid19 Impacts

APSA and the China National Seed Trade Association (CNSTA) successfully organized a three-session, two-day online seminar (May 26 and 27), which featured dozens of seed industry experts and executives representing national and regional seed associations, as well as leading seed enterprises. The aim of the webinar was not only to highlight the “Impacts of COVID-19 on the Seed Trade” but to lay out the stakes for the path and trends moving forward. Seed industry speakers and panelists represented 13 countries inside and outside the Asia-Pacific region, including China, India, Pakistan, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Chile and the USA. All in the webinar was joined by more than 50,000 participants from across the world, who tuned in via Zoom, Youtube, Wechat and Tencent broadcasting platforms. Making mass broadcasting possible in mainland China — where a majority of participants joined from — was technical support from Southern Rural News Agriculture Wealth. A summary report of the webinar is being prepared and will be shared via APSA website and included ash part of comprehensive coverage of COVID19 impats in the upcoming Q2 of Asian Seed Magazine. Meanwhile, videos and all presentations from the three sessions can be accessed here

International Seed Federation to hold Virtual Congress 8 – 10 June

ISF Secretary General Michael Keller says, “The International Seed Federation, as the voice of the private seed sector, is not staying silent,” despite postponement of the ISF’s World Seed Congress 2020 in South Africa: to fill the gap, his organization invites all to the ISF’s interactive, no-cost Virtual Congress, streaming live 8 – 10 June and accessible through 17 June. Register free via this link

Seed movement under COVID-19: ISF engages region reps

ISF has engaged leaders from regional and national seed associations in a series of video Q&As to get insights on how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted the industry. Special thanks to: AFSTA, APSA, Euroseeds, SAA, SANSOR, Tunisian Seed Association, China Seed Association, Australian Seed Federation, Plantum, ANOVE, ASTA and ANPROS. The interviews can be viewed via the following links:

ISTA holds first ever ISTA Rules Meeting

The International Seed Testing Association’s 2020 Rules Session meeting was held in the virtual format for the first time. Held on May 19, the meeting, which is part of the process of updating ISTA Rules provided a glance over the 2021 edition changes proposed by ISTA members. The two-hour meeting can be watched in its entirety on Youtube via this link. 

EPSA Exec. Director interviewed by Germination

APSA Executive Director, Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey (May) was featured in an interview with Canada-based Germination magazine, in which she shared her ideas, thoughts and experiences about the direction and priorities of the Asia-Pacific seed industry, especially with regards to Intellectual Property Rights. Read the full interview here.

Global Cotton Industry Freefalls with Reduced Asian Demand

Seed World Magazine published an article 12 May on plummeting cotton demand arising from COVID-19, with severe effect on the global cotton supply chain: “Unexpected reduction in cotton mill use data is observed across all of the major cotton spinning countries, including

China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Vietnam.” Full article here

Amphan Ravages Eastern India and Bangladesh

The worst cyclone in 100 years swept through India and Bangladesh 20th May killing at least 102 people. Damage to built-up areas and farms was estimated at US$13 billion in India; US$130 million in Bangladesh. The U.N. children’s fund (UNICEF) said the storm and its after-effects put 19 million children at risk. In Kolkata, home to nearly 15 million people, Cyclone Amphan tore roofs off buildings, smashed windows, pulled down trees and pylons and overturned cars. 2.4 million people were evacuated before Amphan made landfall from

Bangladesh’s low-lying coastal district of Bhola, and 650,000 from the states of Odisha and West Bengal in Eastern India. In Bangladesh, the threat to standing crops and fertile land led officials to help farmers move produce and hundreds of thousands of animals to higher ground. Luckily, the rice harvest was mostly complete. In India’s West Bengal, two districts in the Ganges delta were hit hard, with homes and crops destroyed, communications snapped, power cut and bridges unusable. The West Bengal coastal villages of Dhinkia, Nuagaon, Gadakujanga, Ambiki, Gadaharishpur and Padmapur in Jagatsinghpur District’s Erasama block were the worst hit. Harvested crops were damaged in storage by the downpours, along with 1,500 betel vines. 25,000 people were evacuated: 16,840 to 299 cyclone shelters; 5,000 shifted to private buildings and educational institutions on their own. The cyclone affected more than 13 million people and damaged over 1.5 million houses.

Voracious locust swarms prey on Pakistan, India and Iran

A devastating pest is rapidly eating its way through farmland in West and South Asia, and the damage mounting. As if the threat of Fall Armyworm weren’t worrying enough, now agriculture officers in Pakistan, India and Iran are rallying to fight swarms of hungry, migratory locusts. Believed to have originated in Africa and the Middle East, the pests since last year have caused sleepless nights for farmers in the three countries, and the situation appears to have escalated in April and May as farmers harvest spring crops, and prepare to sow for the coming season. A comprehensive report will be featured in Asian Seed Magazine Q2, out in June. 

SA’s Klein Karoo ISTA Accredited

ISTA, via LinkedIn, on May 22 announced accreditation of APSA-member Klein Karoo Seed Quality Service Laboratory in Oudtshoorn, South Africa. The certificate is valid till 29 January, 2023 and covers sampling, purity, germination, and weight tests for cereals, small legumes, pulses, vegetables and other agricultural crops.

 

APRIL 2020

APSA – FAO Seed Legislation Study Published

The APSA – FAO study “Status of Seed Legislation and Policies in the Asia-Pacific Region” reviewing seed legislation in the Asia-Pacific and offering recommendations for future development is now available as an eBook for several platforms. Download it from

ISF Response to Covid-19 Crisis

The ISF has issued a number of responses over the last month outlining the organization’s position on matters related to seed and the world virus shutdown, including the “ISF Response to the Call to Action by the Food and Land Use Coalition”, “Contribution by FSII members towards COVID19 relief measures”, the “Joint letter from ISTA and ISF on the extension of accreditation certificates for seed health testing laboratories”, and “Safeguarding the food chain and International Seed Movement under the COVID-19 Crisis”. More details on ISF website

World Economic Forum Says Covid-19 Shutdown Could Worsen Hunger Crisis

The WEF notes that Covid-19 measures closing schools means many children miss their only hot meal of the day; that quarantine regulations disrupt supply chains; and that the crisis could plunge half a billion people into poverty while world trade reduces by up to a third. Meanwhile, quarantine regulations and partial port closures cause slowdowns in the shipping industry and border restrictions interdict trucking. 

World Food Program Director Warns of ‘Biblical’ Famine

The United Nations World Food Program Director David Beasley warned the UN Security Council of “a hunger pandemic” owing to the Covid-19 crisis, with “multiple famines of biblical proportions” coming soon. “We could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries,” he said, adding “more people could die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself.” 

FAO Recommendations for Food Industry Workers

In “COVID-19 and the Risk to Food Supply Chains: How to Respond?”, the FAO advises food industry employers on measures to consider in order to keep the supply chain alive: keep all workers healthy and safe; maintain movement of food along the food chain; and have Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles in place. Read the full document here.

Advanta Seeds Covid-19 Crisis Video

Advanta Seeds has released a video on Twitter, with the accompanying tweet: “#Farmers worldwide are feeling the effects of #Covid19. This pandemic only reinforces our commitment…” which is linked and updated on APSA’s Covid-19 Resources page

Channel News Asia Commentary by Dr May and CLA Director Dr Siang Hee Tan

APSA Executive Director Dr Kanokwan Chodchoey and CropLife Asia Executive Director Dr Siang Hee Tan wrote in Channel News Asia recently about challenges arising from the Covid-19 crisis. Their recommendations: ASEAN economic ministers must ensure food security endangered by the economic shutdown via cross-ministerial coordination while acting on farmers’ feedback. Read the full article here.

CLA Webinar with APO on Supply Chain Effects

In the latest Asian Productivity Organization’s Productivity Talk Webinar (Thursday, 23 April 2020), CLA Executive Director Dr Siang Hee Tan discusses COVID-19 and the agriculture industry, spotlighting the crisis-spawned labor shortages, supply, environmental and pest pressures to be overcome. See the webinar stream here.

Shipping Down 11%, Fruit Rots in Myanmar and Kenya, Thai Bodybuilders Sell Durian and Malaysian Fruit Demand Skyrockets

Global shipping is off 11% (among the majors up to 17%) for the first half of 2020, while container shipping availability disappears — both attributed to the Covid-19 crisis by maritime intelligence company eeSea. Meanwhile, Kenyan banana farmers let thousands of ha rot after markets and hotels closed in Mombasa; in Myanmar, fruit traders can’t get their product across the border to China in time, owing to Covid-19 entry restrictions; and in Thailand out-of-work bodybuilders flex their muscles selling durians, while demand for fruits high in Vitamin C skyrockets in Malaysia as a hedge against the virus. Read the full reports on Fresh Plaza.

 

MARCH 2020

ISF Calls for information on seed supply impacts

The International Seed Federation will be partnering with other international organizations who represent various agricultural input sectors in an effort to keep agriculture high on the agenda of policy makers even in these difficult times; to reiterate that there is currently no evidence that food is a likely route of transmission of the virus.  See more on ISF statement on March 23 for seed supply information gathering

IPCC Sec Gen issues statement on coronavirus, IYPH

“Obviously, this situation has altered the characteristics of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) in 2020, but if anything, it raises even more the need to ensure that plants are protected from the ravages of plant pests. Ensuring a supply of fresh and wholesome food is more important than ever. With the challenges of limited travel, access to a safe and stable supply of food is compromised.” Secretary-General of the International Plant Protection Commision, Jingyuan Xia said

EU TO FUND BIOSECURITY PROJECT IN SE ASIA

The European Union launched a €3.5 million regional project to support increased biosecurity in Southeast Asia. The project will help governments to better respond to highly communicable diseases or global biological events, such as pandemics, according to an EU press release. 

SEED COMPANIES CONFIRM COMMITMENTS

  • Chia Tai Group Statement (link)
  • East-West Seed: Statement from Founder, Simon N. Groot (link); Statement from Management Board (link) & Comprehensive statement of measures (pdf)
  • HM.Clause (statement textHM Clause statement)
  • Bayer Crop Sciences: Coronavirus news feed updates (link)
  • BASF: Nutrition and Health business coronavirus  updates (link)
  • Syngenta: Actions on Covid-19 notice (link)

APSA IPR& Biodiversity report on seed legislation published

The report has now been published on the FAO website here.

 

FEBRUARY 2020

FAO engages Asian agri-stakeholders during DG visits to Pakistan, Thailand and Laos

Dr. Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in February made his first visit to several countries in South and Southeast Asia since beginning his term in August 2019. 

Last year, Dr. Qu became the first Chinese, and second Asian DG of the FAO, which was covered in Asian Seed Volume 25, Q3 issue (see page 13 here)

His visit to the three Asian countries created engagement opportunities for various agriculture stakeholders, including APSA’s Executive Director, Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey, who on 17 February joined an informal consultation with FAO representatives and various reps from more than a dozen private sector, academia and civil society organizations in Thailand. 

Dr Qu (second right) during the stakeholders consultation in Bangkok. Photo: Asian Seed

Participants discussed ways, ideas and channels to strengthen cooperation in working towards the mandates of the UN’s FAO, especially with respect to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

During the consultation, APSA’s Dr. Chodchoey briefed Dr. Qu, FAO reps and other participants on priorities and activities of APSA members and the greater Asia-Pacific seed industry, including those related to Intellectual Property Rights,  Plant Variety Protection, the Systems Approach, Phytosanitary Measures and promoting the UN’s International Year of Plant Health. 

In wrapping up the meeting, Dr. Qu stated,  “These partnerships are an opportunity to work together in a new way. Working together with you, through our FAO Hand in Hand initiative – an FAO matchmaking initiative – is in all our interests, and most importantly it will help lead us to defeating hunger and poverty by the 2030 deadline.”

During his visit to Thailand, Dr. Qu also met with the Thai Prime Minister, H.E. Prayuth Chan-O-Cha. The FAO DG thanked the Prime Minister and people of Thailand for their long standing support for FAO’s work and, in particular, for hosting the decades-old FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in the capital Bangkok.

Also in Thailand, Dr. Qu also visited a “”smart tomato farm” in Suphanburi province, which was described as a pilot project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives that employs Precision Agriculture (PA) techniques to grow high yielding tomato crops efficiently and effectively.

Prior to coming to Thailand, Dr. Qu visited Pakistan, where he met with President, H.E. Arif Alv to discuss ways to promote agricultural modernization and rural development with the aim of transforming the country’s agri-food systems and accelerating progress towards the SDGs.

Dr. Qu also visited Laos, where he met with Lao PDR  Prime Minister, H.E. Thongloun Sisoulith. According to FAO’s DG news update, the two discussed strategies for sustainable development, and in particular ambitions to enable the landlocked country to graduate from its “Least Developed Country” status by 2024. 

APAARI publishes gene-editing consultation recommendations 

The Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) has published Proceedings and Recommendations of Expert Consultation on Gene Editing and its Regulation” following the consultation, which was held 10-11 October at the International Crops Research Institute (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India. The consultation was attended by APSA Execcutive Director, and covered in Asian Seed magazine, the report of which can be found via this link. (See page 15) 

The proceedings and recommendations publication can be downloaded from APAARI’s website via this link

FAO rallies experts, mobilizes resources to address locust infestation 

Attention all seasoned entomologists, especially desert locust experts: The  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is recruiting international consultants to work for an 11-month period with a “Locusts and Transboundary Plant Pests and Diseases” team, in collaboration with its Resilience Team, to address the spread of the desert locust, which has been causing cropping havoc in various countries in East Africa as well as Central and South Asia. Full job description here.  

In related news reported by dunyanews.tv reports that the FAO is already offering been coordinating support for several Asian countries affected by the locust infestation, including Pakistan, India, Iran and Afghanistan.  

Standing crops were reported to be badly damaged in Pakistan’s Lakki Marwat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to this report.

The Nation Pakistan also reports that China will offer support to its ally in South Asia by setting up an “emergency project to help Pakistan prepare pesticide and spraying equipment.” 

Record cold, snow in Kuwait Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran 

Thousands of dinars in damage was inflicted in February for farmers whose crops were destroyed by sub-zero temperatures in Abdali and Wafra of Kuwait. The crop losses affected exposed potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and pepper, reports Al-Anba daily.

Likewise, harsh and record cold and snow during the month has caused havoc for farmers and locals in several countries across the region. 

Record low temperatures ranging between minus 20 to minus 40 degrees Celsius have been reported along with a number of snow and cold-weather related deaths and incidents reported in Turkey — in Göle, Aşkale, Kars and Ardaha. 

Fresh Plaza reports that more than 70% of horticulture companies in the Adana region — where some 30,000 hectares are used to cultivate citrus crops — have suffered heavy damages due to minus 15 degree temperatures early in February.

Likewise, fields in Northwest Syria, around the town of al-Malikiyah (Derik) near the Turkish border, were photographed to be blanketed in snow that would have certainly frozen any exposed crops.

In northwest Iran, snow totals of as much as six meters were responsible for cutting off water and electricity to many regions, especially Qarah Bolagh district. The “first snow in a century” was also reported in southern Iraq. 

To better understand the scientific and geological implications of such cold-weather”Climate Change” trends, and implications for the seed industry, see also Asian Seed comprehensive report conducted on the subject in 2017. 

 

DECEMBER 2019 & JANUARY 2020

Welcome to 2020: the International Year of Plant Health #IYPH2020

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as much as 40% of global food crop production is lost every year due to plant pests and diseases. To raise awareness about this while highlighting the significance of plant health in global food security, the FAO has declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health. The official launch event of IYPH 2020 was held December 2 2019 at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. Inaugurating the event, FAO Director-General, Mr Qu Dongyu said “Plants provide the core basis for life on Earth and are the single most important pillar of human nutrition. But healthy plants are not something that we can take for granted … As we launch this international year, plant health is increasingly under threat. Read more on the website of the International Plant Protection Commission. Also, Asian Seed Magazine Quarter 1, 2020 issue will feature an article with more news about #IYPH2020, including activities and initiatives by NPPOs and governments in the APSA region. 

7th ISTA List of Stabilized Plant Names Released

The Nomenclature Committee of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) has announced the 7th and latest edition of ISTA List of Stabilized Plant Names, which is available on the ISTA website here.  The previous six editions were completed and published in 1966, 1983, 1988, 2001, 2007, and 2013. Individual names on the List are to be stabilized for a period of at least six years. The latest edition includes many changes or adjustments in nomenclature for the plants, which have mostly resulted from recent advancements in taxonomic classification or from the nomenclatural actions of an International Botanical Congress, the latter reflected in the 2018 International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Shenzhen Code) (ICN) adopted by the 2017 Shenzhen Congress (N. J. Turland et al., Regnum Vegetabile 159, Koeltz Botanical Books, 2018). Proposed changes to the List were evaluated individually by Nomenclature Committee members and voted upon. From these results, a document containing the “Proposed Changes to the ISTA List of Stabilized Plant Names” approved by Committee vote was submitted to and approved by the 32nd ISTA Congress in Hyderabad, India, in 2019. At the Congress, ISTA members recommended that codes used by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) be added to the List. The current list includes UPOV codes and links to their GENIE database. 

WBA names 2,000 ‘most influential companies’ for attaining SDGs

The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) has published a list of 2,000 “most influential companies”, which the organization says is  criticial to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The SDG2000 list identifies the 2,000 most influential companies in various sectors, and based in 74 countries around the world, who together represent $43 trillion in revenue. Represented on the list are 350 “Food and Agriculture” companies, including several prominent multinational conglomerates with holdings and investment in the Asia-Pacific seed industry. Among them are Bayer (Monsanto), BASF (Nunhems), Charoen Pokphand (Chiatai), Corteva (DowDupont & Pioneer), China National Chemical Corporation (ChinaChem & Syngenta), Limagrain (HM.Clause, Vilmorin-Mikado and UPL (Advanta /Pacific Seeds), among others. 

World Food & Agriculture in Numbers

According to an estimate by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) agriculture in 2017 used an estimated 37 percent of global land area; more than half of that was in Asia. This estimate, and related insights and statistics — related to population, cropping, productivity, supply, demand, hunger, malnutrition and sustainability — are covered in the FAO’s 2019 World Food and Agriculture Statistical Pocketbook, a 242-page digital publication (download here), which includes statistical profiles of all the world’s regions and countries, comparing vital data from 1997, 2007 and 2017. 

First phase of US-China trade deal signed

Trade officials from the world’s two largest economies in January signed what has been dubbed by many observers as a historical “first-phase” deal, easing tensions in the so-called “trade war” between the two superpowers. China has pledged to buy American ag goods as US cut tariffs on some Chinese goods. According to one report, China agreed to boost purchases of US goods and services by $200 billion over the next two years, including “$77.7 billion for manufactured goods and $32 billion for agricultural products.” In exchange, the US agreed to “halve 15 percent tariffs on $120 billion of Chinese imports, but leave 25 percent tariffs on an additional $250 billion of imports in place.” The report speculates that the deal could enable US agricultural exports to China to increase by as much as 50%, and thus provide “economic relief to farmers who have lost business … as a result of the trade war.” Indeed, US agricultural exports to China plummeted, estimated by about $21 billion, after trade relations deteriorated in 2018. Prior to that, “China was once the largest market for US agricultural products.” Now, the US is reportedly sitting on a “record number of soybeans in storage”, as China started purchasing more soybeans from Brazil after trade relations have broke down, according to CNN

Locust swarms still threatening Pakistani and Indian crops

Following last year’s costly infestation of locusts that have devastated standing crops in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the pest seemed to had been contained in the latter two countries thanks to pest management and pesticide spraying protocal; however, reports in early 2020 suggest that a new wave of the pest is still attacking crops in South Asia. According to ARY News, the pest has “now landed in Sahiwal and surrounding areas … [and has] attacked standing crops of wheat, mustard and potatoes on hundreds of acres farmlands in Kumair, Harappa, Bangla, Cheechawatani and other areas of the region.”  Locusts, in addition to mealybugs, were to blame for declining horticulture productivity in Sindh. Likewise the pest was reported to have resurfaced in Gujarat’s  Banaskantha district, attacking crops there, invading parts of villages like Mavsar, Kundaliya and Radhanesda close to the border adjoining Pakistan.