Seed Health Unit plays key role in shaping the future of seed testing at ISTA Annual Meeting

Photos courtesy of ISTA LinkedIn

VERONA, Italy  - Scientists, industry leaders, and policymakers from around the world gathered recently at the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) Annual Meeting to discuss and explore critical themes in seed testing under the banner "From Biodiversity to Diversification: resources, tools, and technologies to meet new challenges."

Hosted by the Council of Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA) from May 29 to June 01, 2023 in Italy, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Seed Health and Logistics Unit (SHU), led by Dr. Martina Castellion, Senior Manager, and Ms. Camille Rae Cortez-Sunga, Quality Assurance Specialist, actively participated in this 4-day meeting.The sessions focused on the conservation and use of genetic resources, particularly concerning food security. Experts from various fields delivered insightful presentations, shedding light on the importance of preserving biodiversity as a foundation for sustainable agriculture. SHU as the IRRI's gateway for the exchange of biological materials has a direct implication on promoting genetic diversity and contributes to addressing food security while preserving the environment and safeguarding human health.

Cutting-edge breeding techniques, with particular emphasis on genome editing, were also highlighted during the meeting. Presentations revolved around the regulatory framework and intellectual property aspects associated with these revolutionary technologies. A central point of discussion was the balance between uniformity and diversity in the seed industry, particularly concerning the production of organic heterogeneous materials. Additionally, the gathering explored the challenges surrounding the testing and identification of gene-edited materials,  which aim to be indistinguishable from conventionally bred varieties.

Representatives from national seed quality testing services across various countries were also present during the meeting, including Mr. Ruel Gesmundo, the Chief Officer, Philippines Bureau of Plant Industry National Seed Quality Control Service.

Following the sessions, the meeting proceeded with mini sessions dedicated to the different committees and working groups within ISTA. During these sessions, the ISTA Technical Committee made presentations, providing updates on specific projects and themes. The parallel sessions offered an opportunity for SHU to engage with the seed quality community and familiarize itself with the latest internationally accepted procedures for seed testing.

Since SHU is expanding its scope towards strengthening partnerships with stakeholders by delivering quality seeds, the unit engaged in discussions that focused on applicable techniques and improvement programs that impact seed quality, such as sampling, germination tests, and moisture content determination. One of SHU's goals is to secure an enhanced end-to-end process together with IRRI breeders for delivering good quality seeds to customers.

One of the meeting’s highlights was the general meeting, where representatives from each country made crucial decisions. The meeting addressed topics such as proposed changes to the ISTA International Rules for Seed Testing in 2024, method validation reports, and annual membership. SHU actively observed the voting and concessions of each country's representative, gaining valuable insights into the decision-making processes that shape the future of seed testing.

The session culminated with a closing address by Dr. Keshavulu Kunusoth, ISTA President, who extended an invitation to the 2024 ISTA Annual Meeting in Cambridge, UK.

SHU's active participation throughout the meeting underscored IRRI's commitment to fostering collaboration, driving innovation, and advancing seed quality testing globally.

Established in 1924, ISTA has been at the forefront of developing and publishing standard procedures in the seed testing field. With member laboratories in over 80 countries, this global network enables organizations like IRRI's Seed Health Unit to actively contribute to the advancement of seed testing practices.