‘Strong seed systems key to food security’

“The baseline of farming is seeds,” Dr. Siang Hee Tan, executive director of Singapore-based CropLife Asia, said at an online forum organized by the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture via its SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagement (SOLVE) platform.

Dr. Tan’s statement sums up why SEARCA conducted the webinar for farmers and seed producers in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia. SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio himself is a believer that good farming business starts with the right seeds.

National Seed Quality Control Services Chief Ruel Gesmundo of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BAI) said seeds are vital inputs in agricultural efficiency and that assuring seed quality will help boost farmer productivity.

Gesmundo emphasized the value of seed quality assurance. He explained that seed quality control plays a vital role in the seed system to ensure the availability of high-quality seeds and its accessibility to farmers.

Through seed certification as quality control mechanism, it is ensured that high quality seeds and planting materials are available to the farming communities, Gesmundo said. As the seed certifying agency in the Philippines, the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry-National Seed Quality Control Services implements quality control procedures in certifying both seed stock production of government seed farms and institutions, as well as private seed growers. It is also responsible for seed testing and issuance of results of laboratory analysis and tags.

Gesmundo pointed out that the goal of any seed program is for farmers to have access to high-quality seeds. To support the crops sector, he said the government provides high-quality seeds and planting materials. When using accredited and registered varieties in the Philippines, farmers are assured of quality seeds and the identity and source of their crop varieties of choice.

This was affirmed by Dr. Mary Ann Sayoc, Public Affairs Lead of East-West Seed International, who pointed out during the forum that seed is the starting point of any food production, and to push for a healthy seed sector is to have an enabling environment that promotes science-based regulations and multi-stakeholder engagements.

However, Tan noted that seed issues impacting the growth of the industry include outdated seed policies and regulations, lack of harmonized and transparent seed movement across borders, and use of illegal seed practices.

He emphasized the importance of collective work between associations to help build a resilient seed industry, as well as good leadership of governments to enable farmers to secure certified seeds and improve their livelihoods.

According to Tan, the establishment of networks, for example across Asean+3, helps in strengthening the seed sector. With the rapidly changing environment, it is important to work with regulators to help bring seeds to farmers so they can cope with the demand on the ground.

He said CropLife Asia works with different associations in the region to help upgrade seed systems to expedite moving the correct seed traits and technology into the hands of farmers.

Gregorio said SEARCA is keen to help strengthen seed systems, which can directly benefit farmers because seeds are the carriers and drivers of technology and industry.

He said this is in keeping with SEARCA’s current development agenda focused on elevating the quality of life of agricultural families through sustainable livelihoods and access to modern networks and innovative markets.

As a first step, Gregorio said SEARCA has signed an agreement with CropLife Asia for the joint conduct of the United Nations Food Systems Summit Independent Dialogue on “Transforming Pathways: Working with Farmers in Agri-Food Systems” held on June 14.