The OECD Seed Schemes are intended to assist in the international trade in seed. Their full title is “OECD Schemes for the Varietal Certification or the Control of Seed Moving in International Trade” and there are actually 7 schemes for different species of plants. They are
- Grasses and legumes
- Crucifers and other oil or fibre species
- Fodder beet and sugar beet
- Subterranean clover and similar species
- Maize and sorghum
Australia is a member of all but the Fodder beet and sugar beet, and the Vegetables schemes, so the Australian seed industry can obtain OECD certification for varieties of the species covered in the remaining 5 schemes.
The OECD recognises a government body as the National Designated Authority (NDA) for each country which is a member of one or more of the schemes. In Australia’s case, this is the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). DAFF has licensed the Australian Seeds Authority (ASA) to undertake the national management of the schemes, and ASA in turn has signed Authorisation Agreements with three organisations to undertake the actual certification activities.
The overall objective of the OECD Seed Schemes is to provide assurance to buyers of seed on the international market that the seed they are buying has been certified according to the rules of the OECD seed schemes, so they can buy in confidence that the variety they are buying is as close as possible to the genetic makeup of the variety as originally selected by the breeder.
The OECD Rules are available on line at www.oecd.org/tad/seed.
One of the key elements of all the OECD schemes is that the variety must be registered as eligible for certification. For this to happen, the NDA must have a detailed morphological description of the variety, which enables it to be identified by experienced and trained field inspectors, and there must be a detailed management plan which outlines how many generations can be produced of that variety, and how many harvests of each generation are permitted. Once accepted, the variety is placed on the OECD list of varieties eligible for certification, which can be viewed online at http://www.oecd.org/document/14/0,3746,en_2649_33905_41097230_1_1_1_1,00.html
The OECD Seed Schemes include specific requirements for labelling of certified seed. The usual generation traded is first generation certified and this is identified by a blue label, with lot specific information printed on the label.