SEEDBORNE DISEASE DATABASES: NECESSARY TOOLS FOR DEFINITION OF PHYTOSANITARY REGULATIONS
Institute of Seed Pathology for Developing Countries, Denmark
Today, many governments have established phytosanitary regulations for their country to prevent import and spread of pests, weeds and pathogens hazardous to plant production. Most countries are also members of regional plant quarantine organizations. Several examples exist of hazardous organisms unintentionally transferred with plants and seed to new areas, causing serious losses. The risk of introducing very small amounts of plant material infected with a plant pathogen is spelled out to travellers by some quarantine organizations. In view of this, and the large amount of plant material, particularly seed, moving around the world today, it is expected that phytosanitary regulations should be well appreciated.
High-quality seed of improved varieties is an essential input to agriculture and is in high demand, but is not always available, particularly in developing countries. Seed-exporting countries have a direct economic interest in the quick, uninterrupted movement of seed across international borders to meet plant producers' demand for improved, high-quality seed both in industrial and in developing countries. The value of seed in commerce amounts to billions of US$ annually. Crop improvement research organizations have an equal interest in the movement of seed across international borders in the form of germplasm of no commercial value. The exchange of pure seed without fruit pulp and debris is considered of lowest quarantine risk compared to the exchange of other types of plant material . However, increased awareness of seedborne diseases over the past decades has increased the focus of phytosanitary regulations on seed. Although it is repeatedly stated that phytosanitary regulations should be based on sound biological principles and should not act as a trade barrier, the former General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) organization found reason to ensure that unnecessary phytosanitary measures are not used as trade barriers . The plant quarantine organizations require recent and detailed information on the geographical distribution and the biology of a pathogen for making a pest risk analysis leading to the introduction of proper quarantine measures, if any [1-3].
Such information has, until now, not been easily available to all in need of it, and the data have not been available in a structured form. However, CD-ROM and Internet technology have today made it possible to compile and structure huge amounts of host/pathogen data and make them easily available to anybody in possession of basic computer technology, a telephone line and/or a CD-ROM drive. A new important CD-ROM tool for evaluating plant quarantine significance of the seedborne phase of plant pathogens has been compiled and published by CABI in the form of a database on seedborne diseases, which is included in the Crop Protection Compendium, Module 1, CD-ROM. The database information consists of illustrations and text authored and validated by hundreds of experts across the world. Of particular interest to plant quarantine are distribution maps which are linked to the database information. This publication is, however, based on research data available today. Several seed pathology problems, also of plant quarantine significance, have not yet been researched satisfactorily. Therefore the scheduled updating of the CD-ROM is an essential feature of the publication. The Crop Protection Compendium, Module 1 is financed by an international consortium of 21 public and private organizations. Compendium features of relevance to seedborne diseases and quarantine will be discussed and demonstrated.