OECD seed schemes
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has the responsibility of making available technical and administrative references in order to share a common organization for various activities of its member states. As a result, the organisation has adopted agricultural “codes” or “schemes”. This is a compilation of the technical regulations established by participant states to allow the smooth functioning of their national sectors and foreign trade.
The OECD’s seed schemes, initially established in 1958, are open to all OECD member states as well as to UN member states. At present, there are over 50 participants.
To be eligible for certification under an OECD seed scheme, a variety must meet the following requirements:
- have distinct, uniform, and stable characteristics;
- have an acceptable value for cultivation and use;
- have an official denomination;
- have a certain minimum number of distinctive characteristics (i.e., see UPOV reference standards);
- be associated with a standard, representative sample that is retained/maintained by a competent body authorised by and under the official supervision of a national designated authority. OECD’s seed schemes cover 45,000 varieties belonging to 200 agricultural species.
There are currently eight seed certification schemes that cover the following species groups:
- grasses and legumes
- crucifers and other oil or fibre species
- fodder beet and sugar beet
- subterranean clover and similar species
OECD seed schemes are largely focused on ensuring the varietal identity and purity of certified seeds. Varietal identity is verified in the field and by sampling seed lots; there is also post-control verification. Technical standards related to lot quality are limited to seed germination ability.
The schemes provide requirements for production of seeds and seed lots as well as common control procedures, standards related to packaging and labelling, namely the use of seals (on sacks, big bags, and containers) and OECD category-specific labels and labelling procedures.
Implementing OECD seed schemes can be recognized equivalent to EU standards, depending on EU legislation governing the seed trade.
In France (an OECD member state), SOC is the national designated authority responsible for ensuring seed compliance with OECD certification standards. As a result, the head of SOC is tasked with attending the OECD’s two annual meetings on issues related to seed schemes improvement, which are attended by representatives from member states and observers from international organisations with an interest in seed certification (e.g., ISF, ESA, ISTA, UPOV, and FAO).
Of the countries participating in the seed schemes (i.e., EU member states and UN member states), France is among the top five commercial seed producers that use OECD certification.