15 Jul 2013

Rules change for imported seeds

10:28 pm on 15 July 2013

Farmers will be the ultimate winners from a regulation change covering the quarantine time of imported seeds.

Until now, overseas seeds of pasture cultivars such as ryegrass and fescues have had to spend eight weeks in a quarantine glasshouse to make sure they weren't going to transport seed-borne fungi into New Zealand's environment. Either that, or researchers had to pay for an expensive fungi-screening test.

But after an agreement between the Ministry for Primary Industries and Agresearch, that quarantine is to be done away with.

Instead researchers who agree to monitor and document the plants they grow from the imported seed and to report anything unusual, will do the biosecurity checks instead.

A Ministry for Primary Industries standards spokesperson, Kathryn Hurr, says the ministry is confident that will be as robust as the current Import Health Standard that applies to the commercial importation of seeds.

Zane Webber from AgResearch's Margot Forde Forage Seed Centre says the rule change means the whole process will be quicker and cheaper for scientists to access the national seed bank - allowing them to analyse a wider range of seed.