Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Central Seed Laboratory, Bldg 22, Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0C6

Background and objectives
Seed occupies only a small niche in the overall agricultural economy, yet the importance of this commodity is greatly amplified by the fact that good quality seed is the basis of all future agricultural production. In recent years globalization of the seed industry has resulted in widespread rapid distribution of seeds. With this movement of seed comes an increasing danger of the spread of seedborne diseases and new challenges for both regulatory officials and the seed industry.

The world seed market has been estimated to have a value in excess of $55 billion per year. A large portion of this market involves the international movement of seeds. The financial losses to the seed industry as a result of disease epidemics resulting from the movement of infected seed can be significant. Loss of trade opportunities as a result of the regulatory actions to control or prevent such disease outbreaks can be equally damaging to the industry. These losses can result from inconsistent application of phytosanitary regulations or abuse of these regulations as non-tariff barriers to trade, application of improper methods for detection of seedborne pathogens, lack of standardization in test protocols, improper use of disease tolerances, and misuse and misinterpretation of seedborne disease catalogues or databases [1].

Results and conclusions
To meet the challenges of this changing paradigm, the vegetable seed industry in France, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands and the USA has entered into new partnerships with public sector regulatory bodies, resulting in the development of a international seed health initiative (ISHI). Working in cooperation with other organizations such as the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA), institutes and laboratories, ISHI has the following objectives: (i) to secure the delivery of sufficiently healthy seed on a worldwide basis; (ii) to assess and develop suitable test protocols, establish adequate pathogen thresholds and develop an information database for the control of seedborne pathogens of international economic significance; and (iii) to seek recognition and cooperate with official national and international regulatory and accreditation authorities [2].

1. McGee DC, 1997. Plant Pathogens and the Worldwide Movement of Seeds. APS Press, St Paul, Minnesota, p. 103.
2. Meijerink, G, 1997. Seed Health Testing: Progress Towards the 21st Century. CAB International, Wallingford, UK, pp. 87-94.