Forbidden fruit

OECD Agricultural Codes and Schemes
OECD Observer

Anyone shopping in fruit markets this summer will agree that judging the quality of agricultural products is a serious business. After all, customers want their apples to look and taste like apples. But ever wonder how those standards are ensured from the farm to the marketplace? Standards play a vital role in growing, pricing, trading, shipping and public safety. They serve the global market, simplify import and export procedures, and increase transparency, confidence and traceability.

It should be no surprise that the OECD is a leader in the field, from assessing seeds to testing the safety of precarious-looking imported tractors. Indeed, the organisation has helped to facilitate market developments for half a century.

Take the OECD’s Seeds Scheme. This dates back to 1958 when, thanks to a fast-growing seed trade and the development of off season production, the OECD set the standards for seven categories of seeds. One of the responsibilities of the applicant country is to supply a sample of the seed variety so that a control plot can be sown to provide an authentic reference of the variety; seed samples are also tested for analytical purity. In 2004/2005, farmers traded and used 590,000 tonnes of OECD-certified seed, representing over two-thirds of global trade.

The OECD also holds one of the world’s oldest international standards for the trusty old tractor. OECD tractor standards were originally established in 1959, and first applied to a McCormick International Farmall tractor in the UK. Today over 2,000 models and more than 10,000 different variants have undergone OECD scrutiny for safety and performance.

Some 66 different fruits and vegetables are registered under OECD standards, while in forestry, there are standards for forest seeds and plants, with over 250 species of trees registered.

Sixty countries currently participate in OECD Codes and Schemes. The voluntary internationally-recognised OECD Codes and Schemes programme builds on, but does not necessarily change, domestic regulations. Producers and exporters can aim for particular standards, and importers and consumers can feel more assured as a result. Alison Benney, Rory J Clarke

For more on OECD’s international production standards, see:

©OECD Observer No. 262 July 2007

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q1 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% May 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% July 2019
Last update: 8 July 2019

OECD Observer Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Subscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To order your own paper editions,email

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • MCM logo
  • The following communiqué and Chair’s statement were issued at the close of the OECD Council Meeting at Ministerial level, this year presided by the Slovak Republic.
  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2019