Seed certification system requires major overhaul
By Charles Abel
RADICAL reform of the seed certification system is needed to save the industry as much as £2m/year, but need not jeopardise seed quality, says the British Society of Plant Breeders.
In response to a consultation launched by MAFF (now DEFRA), it has called for a major overhaul of the way seed is certified, including ending the Higher Voluntary Standard and a move away from NIABs status as monopoly service provider.
"We believe that there is a great deal of bureaucracy and duplication within the industry, especially where the UK system exceeds EU requirements. That needs to be removed to maintain competitiveness."
Instead of lumbering the entire industry with the cost of administering the HVS system, individual seed companies could operate their own standards, says BSPB board member Tony Guthrie.
"There are huge costs involved there and if people are prepared to pay for those then fine. But the differences over C2 seed are very small and we believe those issues should be down to the seed producer, not an HVS scheme."
What matters is what is in the bag. That can be delivered by seed suppliers for a far lower cost than the HVS scheme, says the BSPB.
Big cost savings could also be achieved by aligning UK procedures to EU requirements for inspection and testing of pre-commercial material, frequency of official visits and check samples and check plot requirements, it says.
Opening the administration of the certification system up to competitive tender before NIABs current contract expires in 2006 would also help drive down costs. *