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Quality seed is a customer expectation and to meet these expectations, company seed health programs focus on the prevention, detection, and eradication of pathogens.

Is seed a pest risk?

A pest risk analysis (PRA) is the evaluation of available scientific information that allows countries to prescribe and adopt phytosanitary measures to protect plant health within their territories. It is the foundation for fact-based and proportionate phytosanitary regulations instituted by a given country. However, in practice PRAs are difficult to perform. Indeed, many countries do not have the necessary resources to perform all the PRAs needed – neither within a reasonable timeframe nor with the thoroughness required. Additionally, they are often not specific to seeds used for sowing. The PRAs  for seed sowing must take into consideration that some pests are not always transmitted from the seed to the plant grown from that particular seed.

The rationale for phytosanitary measures

The three-stage process of a pest risk analysis (ISPM 2 and ISPM 11) provides a basis for determining the potential of seed being a pest risk.

Identification of an organism and pathway. Even though certain pests may be associated with a given plant species, far fewer are actually associated directly with the seed of the species in question. The PRA should determine if seed is a pathway for the introduction and spread of regulated pests and if it may lead to the establishment of regulated pests in the PRA area.

Pest risk assessment, during this stage an  assessment of introduction, establishment and spread of the pest based on available scientific information is performed together with an assessment of the economic impacts. Numerous research papers on plant diseases are published every year. A number of these reports indicate “can or has been found on seeds”. However, the relevance of such reports should be thoroughly assessed. The presence of a pest on or in seeds does not necessarily imply that it can be transmitted from the seed into the resulting plant.

Pest risk management, which identifies the phytosanitary measures that (alone or in combination) reduce the pest risk to an acceptable level. The seed business today uses many recognized risk reduction and prevention measures for seed pests of concern, such as seed certification schemes, resistant varieties, seed testing or seed treatments.


The supply of healthy seeds is essential to help ensure growers of a healthy crop. The seed industry uses preventive and hygiene measures and carries out disease inspections and pest control during seed production. The final decision for the import/export of a seed shipment is often based on a diagnostic laboratory test. (See Seed Health – ISHI Methods)

Seed moving internationally, either for research or trade, are subject to phytosanitary regulations to minimise the risk of introducing or spreading pests worldwide. However, in some instances, the phytosanitary measures imposed are unnecessary as seed is not a pathway for the entry, establishment or spread of the pest in question.

Predictable international movement of seed is critical to ensure food security. As the voice of the global seed sector ISF has released a statement highlighting the increasing adoption of restrictive phytosanitary regulation by several governments. (See Statement)

For many years, multiple individuals from across the seed industry have partnered with ISF to contribute to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) development of a seed specific International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures. The culmination of these efforts was the final adoption of the ISPM 38 in 2017. ISF published a training manual for this standard providing the understanding of the IPPC, the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs), and the content of ISPM 38. (See Training Manual)


ISF Regulated Pest List

The ISF regulated pest list database is updated as and when more pest lists are completed, or new information is available. It is not expected that changes will be notified. In case of any litigation, ISF will not be held liable for the use of the database.