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North American Plant Protection Organization Seed Panel up and running

The North American Plant Protection Organization held its first seed panel meeting April 20 to 22, in Ottawa, Canada, to begin the process of drafting a standard on seed re-exports. NAPPO is a regional phytosanitary standards-setting body that functions under the umbrella of the International Plant Protection Convention and is one of nine regional plant protection organizations in the world. NAPPO membership includes the national plant protection officers from the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Panels are often established around commodities to develop standards based on the needs of the governments and private sector that will facilitate trade while at the same time preventing the introduction of unwanted plant pests and diseases. NAPPO panel members are regulatory officials from each of the three governments plus industry representatives from each of the member countries that serve in an ex-officio capacity. Ric Dunkle, ASTA's senior director for seed health and trade, is the U.S. industry representative on the seed panel. Arcadio Lozano (Sakata Seeds and Mexican Seed Trade Association--AMSAC) is the Mexico industry representative, while Bill Leask (Canadian Seed Trade Association--CSTA) is the Canadian industry representative on the panel.

As the seed industry continues to expand internationally, companies want to re-export seed more than ever. The problem is that when seed is grown in the country of origin, international rules dictate that the country of export (origin) is only obligated to meet the entry requirements of the first country of import. For example, if seed is produced in Chile and exported to the U.S., the Chilean NPPO are only obligated to certify that the seed for meets U.S. entry requirements. If the company then wishes to export that seed to the European Union from the U.S., the U.S. may not be able to certify that the product meets the EU entry requirements which likely are different from, or are more stringent than, those of the U.S.

The IPPC has been struggling with this same issue and is attempting to address it through changes to international standards for phytosanitary certifications (ISPM) 7 and 12 which would allow recognition of additional information on the phytosanitary certificate. One major difference between typical commodities for export, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, versus seed is that re-export for most commodities is an alternative when the entry conditions for the importing country cannot be met. Whereas for seed, re-export has become a common business practice. Most seed companies know in advance that they intend to re-export. Options that have been considered include a "seed passport" system similar to the plant passport system currently in place in the EU for nursery plants. However, this option has been determined not feasible to be established and implemented by the IPPC.

At the NAPPO Seed Panel meeting in Ottawa, another option was developed for consideration. For the seed produced in the country of origin, the exporter will declare up to five countries that the seed could be re-exported to through any of the three NAPPO countries. The entry requirements for those countries for re-export will be tabulated, and the seed will be properly inspected and/or tested for these particulars. This additional information will be placed on the phytosanitary certificate in the additional declaration (AD) section. If provided by the NPPO of the country of origin, this information will be considered official by the U.S., Mexico or Canada and that information will then be used to issue re-export certificates. "We are very optimistic that we can develop a standard that both the seed companies and NPPOs around the world can be comfortable with," said Ric Dunkle. "However, the devil will be in the details!"

ASTA has organized a seed re-export mini-workshop as part of the meeting of the Phytosanitary Committee on Monday, June 22, at ASTA's 126th Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Ariz. The workshop will be a forum to dialogue with ASTA members on this re-export standard concept. A panel that includes Ric Dunkle, Arcadio Lozano, and Bill Leask as well as staff from USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will present and explain this concept. This forum will provide a unique opportunity for ASTA members to get a preview of the idea presented at the NAPPO Seed Panel meeting and provide valuable input at the earliest stage of the development of this standard. "I am hopeful that we can have a draft standard that can be sent out for country consultation by this fall," noted Marcus McElvaine, the USDA/APHIS representative on the panel.

ASTA is also working with the Seed Association of the Americas (SAA) to coordinate the development of the NAPPO standard with COSAVE, the South American counterpart to NAPPO. The goal is to arrive at standards that are equivalent, if not identical. If this can be achieved, NAPPO and COSAVE can then propose that the NAPPO/COSAVE standard be adopted by the IPPC as a global standard, maybe as early as 2010. If acceptable to the IPPC, the standard could be officially adopted at the IPPC 2011 annual meeting.

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