Dr K Keshavulu chairs ISTA Board meeting in Washington DC

Dr Keshavluu

Rama Krishna Sangem

Dr. K. Keshavulu, president of ISTA (International Seed Testing Association) chaired its Governing Board meeting for 2023 in Washington DC, USA, which was held from February 13-18.  Dr Keshavulu, who hails from Telangana is the first ever Indian president of the ISTA, a 98 year old prestigious seed testing association with global presence.

The meeting was held in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Dr Keshavulu who did his PhD and post-doctoral from the US is currently the managing director of Telangana State Seed Organisations. He became the president of ISTA, a Zurich, Switzerland based organisation at last 33rd ISTA congress – 2022, in May 2022, at Cairo, Egypt, in the presence of Telangana agriculture minister S Niranjan Reddy.

Dr Keshavulu, in his capacity as ISTA President, presided over the Governing Board meeting of ISTA, wherein members / representatives from different countries and international organisations participated. Meeting was opened by Dr. Melissa Bailey, Associate Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), who addressed the gathering during opening ceremony.

The entire proceedings of the meeting were led by Dr. Keshavulu, who is the first person from Asia to become the President of prestigious international key organisation for seed and food security. ISTA is an inter-governmental organisation founded in 1924 at Switzerland and involved in development of globally agreed rules for seed quality assurance and helping in domestic & international trade of seeds.

ISTA operates under the governments of its member countries/distinct economies. The ISTA standards have been adopted across the globe including India to ensure the supply of quality seeds to the farming community. Currently, its membership consists of about 244 member seed testing laboratories from 83 countries around the world including 28 seed testing laboratories from India.


Topics discussed at the meetings 

The global seed industry is estimated to be valued at USD 63.0 billion in 2022 and is projected to reach USD 86.8 billion by 2026, recording a CAGR of 6.6%. By regions, the North-America is largest market, followed by Europe, Asia-Pacific, South-America, Africa etc. North America is the largest commercial seeds market, accounting for more than 35% of the market share.

Though North America dominates the overall global seed industry with 35 per cent of the total share, the major growth is seen in Asia-pacific and Africa region. Seed market in the Asia Pacific region is the fastest growing market as it hosts the two major agricultural countries, India and China.

High-quality seed is a fundamental and basic component of agricultural production systems all over the world. The strength of a country’s agricultural economy can be measured by how quickly and abundantly high-quality seeds of improved varieties are made available to farmers at affordable prices. Therefore, food security is completely dependent on seed security.

Farmers in many parts of the world are not able to get good quality seeds, especially in few developing countries of Africa and Asia. More than 80% of smallholder farmers in developing countries are heavily rely on farm-saved seed of non-improved varieties or local varieties. Need to develop more effective seed systems to make improved seeds of crop varieties available to farmers.

All over the globe, only around 60 countries are having reasonably good seed industry with effective seed quality assurance systems. In rest of the majority countries seed sector and quality assurance systems are still at developing stage. In order to ensure food security as well as seed security, the governments/countries need to focus on building effective systems for quality seed production, processing, quality assurance, marketing and distribution.

Countries like, the US, China, France, Brazil, India and few European nations have strong seed industry as a result they are self sufficient in food production.

In Asian region, only few countries are having reasonably good seed industries namely, Japan, India, China, South Korea and Thailand. In addition, only India & Japan are members of the OECD Seed Schemes. The countries like, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Srilanka & Pakistan including Middle-East and African countries are not having good seed systems, therefore, need to focus on seed sector development and seed quality assurance in these countries.

In most of the Latin / Central and South American countries except Mexico, Brazil, Chile & Argentina, seed sector and quality assurance is not up to the level. So, need to strengthen seed sector and quality assurance in this region towards having food security. All the seed related global affiliated organisations need to work in coordination with Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) with a common objective of facilitating seed movement across the countries for ensuring supply of quality seeds to farmers around the world. In this regard, need to develop infrastructure, human resource and capacities in many countries including India.

Farmers’ access to good quality seeds is major problem for food production in Mekong region countries, namely, Myanmar, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Laos and Vietnam, so need to focus on seed sector development in the Mekong region. Indian / Telangana seed industry can play a major role in exporting seeds to the Mekong region countries. In this, regard, need to have multi stakeholders’ awareness programmes including governments.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed to extend support to ISTA for developing and strengthening seed quality assurance systems in developing countries including Mekong region countries as well as seeds without border initiative in several Asian countries namely: from South Asia, South East Asia and the Pacific.

It was discussed that the global seed related organisations have to work with FAO on implementing the strategic framework of FAO on Development of Global Seed Industries, especially, in African region. In this regard, a round table meeting on seed system development, strengthening of the seed sector, and addressing the challenges of seed industry development is needed.

Lack of adoption of harmonised seed quality parameters and seed trade requirements are major hurdles for seed movement, especially among African and Asian countries. As a result, farmers in these regions are not able to get good-quality seeds. To facilitate seed movement between countries, regional harmonisation of seed quality standards and trade regulations is required wherever possible.

Seed health / Phytosanitary certification is major requirement for international seed trade. There is a need to develop effective and harmonised seed health / phytosanitary certification systems across the globe for encouraging seed trade across the borders so that farmers of different countries around the globe will get good quality and healthy seeds for improving agriculture production and food security scenario in their respective countries.

Bangladesh has become one more South-East Asian nation in the ISTA global network of Designated Authorities as the 82nd The Government of Bangladesh has vision to improve their seed quality assurance system with the help of ISTA to enhance agriculture production and productivity in the country.

It was decided to hold ISTA Annual meeting -2023 in Verona, Italy in the month of May and June, 2023 and ISTA Governing Board Meeting-2024 at Buenos Aires, Argentina.

ISTA will be entering its 100 years in 2024, so it was decided to have centenary celebrations in a grand manner at Cambridge, United Kingdom by involving all the global seed related organisations and renowned scientists / policymakers from all over the world.

In this direction, Dr. Keshavulu, as President of ISTA, highlighted the role of ISTA in global seed quality assurance as well as global food security. He mentioned that effective seed quality assurance systems are an essential part of the seed sector’s development, which in turn boosts agriculture production and productivity and helps attain food security around the world.

He also narrated the scenario of the Indian seed industry, with special emphasis on Telangana State and the seed bowl initiatives of the Government of Telangana towards making Telangana a global seed hub. He also stated that Telangana has been emerging as a seed export hub in the Asian region owing to the farmer-friendly and supportive policies of the Government of Telangana under the visionary leadership of K Chandrasekhar Rao, Chief Minister of Telangana.

KCR believes that regionally harmonised seed standards, phytosanitary requirements, and trade regulations will provide a great opportunity for India as well as Telangana to increase seed exports in the future, said Dr Keshavulu at the meeting, according to a press release from ISTA, Washington DC..

List of dignitaries present:

  • K. Keshavulu, President of ISTA
  • Melissa Bailey, Associate Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service
  • Johnny Zook, President of Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA)
  • Melissa Philips, Vice-President of Society of Commercial Seed Technologists (SCST)
  • Todd Erickson, Head of Seed regulations, US Dept. of Agriculture
  • Victor Vankus, Director, Seed regulations, US Dept. of Agriculture
  • Melanie Schori, Chair of nomenclature committee, US Dept. of Agriculture
  • Sarah Adams Wilbanks, Chief of Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA)
  • Andrew Lavigne, President of American Seed Trade Association (ASTA)
  • Janine Maruschak, Head of Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • Doug Miller, President of Canadian Seed Growers Association
  • Ernest Allen, ISTA Vice-President
  • Steve Jones, ISTA Immediate Past President
  • Ignacio Aranciaga, ISTA Governing Board Member
  • Craig McGill, ISTA Governing Board Member
  • Sylvie Ducournau, ISTA Governing Board Member
  • Ruel Gesmundo, ISTA Governing Board Member
  • Berta Killermann, ISTA Governing Board Member
  • Claid Mujaju, ISTA Governing Board Member
  • Sergio Pasquini, ISTA Governing Board Member
  • Vanessa Sosa,ISTA Governing Board Member
  • Gilbert Waibel, Seed Expert




Rama Krishna Sangem

Ramakrishna chief editor of excel India online magazine and website

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