Counterfeit seeds cheat farmers of the high-quality, high-yielding crops they rely on to make a decent living. A new law - drafted with help from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) legal experts came into force starting from 1 January 2018 - protects the market from falsified seed materials. Georgia's new Seed Law is part of a comprehensive programme begun in 2014, supporting the Ministry of Agriculture in establishing a fully functional seed certification system.
Under the programme - funded by Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) - FAO furnished the laboratory of the Ministry's Scientific Research Centre with equipment for seed quality control. Using seed samplers, microscope, germination cabinet, safety cabinet, plot harvester, and other equipment, laboratory staff can conduct advanced seed-quality testing in line with international standards.
FAO experts trained lab staff on international seed testing standards and field inspection methods. Workshops in-country and abroad were complemented by study tours to the Gyumri Breeding Institute in Armenia. The laboratory had its official opening in 2017. Seed producers are invited to bring in their seed materials for certification at no cost. Seed certification will continue to be free until 2020, after which it will become a paid service.
"The main objective of the initiative is to support the sustainable development of seed production by promoting a seed certification system in Georgia", said Mamuka Meskhi, FAO Assistant Representative in Georgia. "Applying quality certified seed will mean higher production, improved livelihoods for farmers, and greater export potential for Georgia." Georgian seed producers received attention under the programme, too. For the 2015-16 season, project challenged companies to get involved in a voluntary certification system. Participants produced certified seed materials, and the Ministry of Agriculture and FAO awarded certificates to companies for quality and consistency in their seed materials.