National Plant Protection Offices (NPPO) around the world frequently publish notifications through the World Trade Organization of new, or changes in, their phytosanitary import requirements and regulations for seeds. USDA APHIS also publishes notifications in the Federal Register and often provides ASTA draft copies prior to official postings for comments. ASTA monitors these notifications closely and submits official comments through proper channels. ASTA solicits input from its members by sending notices to the Phytosanitary Committee, Vegetable Technical Subcommittee, Emerging Diseases Subcommittee, and divisions as appropriate, and maintains a database of notices out for comment, ASTA official comments, and resulting regulations once finalized.
Phytosanitary Changes in Other Countries
ASTA closely monitors changes in phytosanitary import requirements of other countries. Countries communicate changes through the USDA, WTO notices, import permits, and indirectly through arbitrary shipment rejections. Working closely with USDA APHIS and Foreign Agricultural Service, ASTA seeks to eliminate technically unjustified trade barriers, most of which are related to phytosanitary.
Food Safety (FS)
Food safety is of high importance to ASTA and its members. Although seed has never been proven scientifically as a source of human pathogens in fresh produce and vegetables, ASTA is vigilant in examining human pathogen outbreaks. The Food Safety Pathogen Working Group was formed to monitor outbreaks, research any proposed state and federal legislation that may impact seed and communicate relevant information to the ASTA membership. The working group maintains a database of published research papers on the ASTA website that support our position that testing vegetable seeds for presence of human pathogens will not contribute to food safety in any meaningful way.
National Seed Health System (NSHS)
The National Seed Health System (NSHS) is a program authorized by USDA-APHIS and administered by the Iowa State University Seed Science Center to accredit both private and public entities to perform certain activities needed to support the issuance of Federal phytosanitary certificates for the international movement of seed. Activities for which entities can obtain accreditation include:
- Laboratory seed health testing: laboratory-based program to test for plant pathogens in seeds;
- Phytosanitary (growing season field) inspection: disease inspection of plants grown to produce seed in the field, nursery, or greenhouse;
- Seed sampling: sampling seeds that requires laboratory seed health testing; and
- Visual inspection: visual inspection of seed shipments at exporter’s facility prior to issuance of phytosanitary certificates.
Through the NSHS, new testing and diagnostic methods are incorporated into the accreditation program to maintain the program on the cutting edge of technology. The NSHS also serves as a resource for pest risk assessment and phytosanitary resolution whenever disputes arise that disrupt the international movement of seed.