1Scottish Agricultural Science Agency, East Craigs, Edinburgh, EH12 8NJ, UK; 2FAO-AGPP, Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy; 3IPGRI, Via delle Sette Chiese 142, 00145 Rome, Italy

Over the past 10 years, The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) have maintained a joint programme, in partnership with key institutions and specialists, to develop and publish Technical Guidelines for the Safe Movement of Germplasm on a range of crops: Allium spp. (published 1997), cassava (1991), citrus (1991), cocoa (1989), coconut (1993), edible aroids (1989), Eucalyptus spp. (1996), grapevine (1991), legumes (1990), Musa spp. (2nd edition 1989), small fruit (1994), small-grain temperate cereals (1995), sugar cane (1993), stone fruit (1996), sweet potato (1989), vanilla (1991) and yam (1989).

Besides being widely recognized as valuable references for researchers, the Guidelines have been seen as useful for the harmonization of phytosanitary measures under the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). However, by virtue of their association with the framework of standards endorsed by the IPPC, the Guidelines can have an unintended regulatory significance and have been used to justify restrictive trade measures.

ln November 1997, the FAO Conference adopted amendments to the revised IPPC. This clearly recognizes the role and activities envisioned for the IPPC in the SPS Agreement (Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures) by making provision for a Secretariat and standard-setting mechanisms, including the establishment of a Commission on Phytosanitary Measures, to enhance international harmonization of phytosanitary standards affecting trade. The IPPC must therefore carefully consider information adopted within its framework for its regulatory implications as well as its technical merits. The IPPC now considers the Guidelines to be technical references and not international standards, and discussions are under way on how information in the Guidelines should be presented in future. Unfortunately this has delayed publication of some Guidelines, such as those for potato, which were under preparation at this time.

This paper presents the work done so far in preparing the Potato Guidelines and explores ways of using the internet in the development and dissemination of the Guidelines in order to reduce production costs and present the most up-to-date information.

The Potato Guidelines
A core group of about 30 international scientists volunteered to contribute to the Potato Guidelines, and 13 attended a meeting at Scottish Agricultural Science Agency in March 1996. For the first time the Guidelines were discussed at all stages via an e-mail mailing list called Spuds-l.

Currently the Potato Guidelines consist of general and technical recommendations on best practice for the international exchange of potato germplasm; therapy procedures, and descriptions of potato spindle tuber viroid, 37 viruses, three uncharacterized diseases, six phytoplasmas and four bacterial diseases. Descriptions cover the pathogen's significance, symptoms, hosts, geographical distribution, transmission and detection methods, together with a comprehensive collection of photographs of disease symptoms in the field. Appendices include details of commercial suppliers of antibodies, probability tables for failing to detect pathogens in true potato seed, indicator plants, references on virus genera and virus-specific PCR detection methods, and information required for a Germplasm Health Statement. lt is anticipated that the photographs will be made available as a slide series and/or photographic CD-ROM.

ln addition, development of the Potato Guidelines on the internet is being done in the framework of FAO's global Plant Production and Protection Information System; . The emphasis is on a dynamic, interactive process to manage information. The data can be used directly off the Internet, or institutions and individuals can produce printed versions as their needs dictate.