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

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