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June 2016

Stewardship

Certification allows the industry to drive quality

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By implementing own certification processes the industry makes a major contribution to sustainable agriculture. Seed treaters also benefit from the scheme as it is less bureaucratic, demanding and costly.

In Brief

  • In the challenging regulatory environment, industry-driven certification schemes help maintain a seed treater's license to operate
  • Treated seed from certified sites is a sign of quality
  • Certification proves seeds have been treated professionally and sustainably
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SweepAir in practice: Bayer is working on various technical solutions to minimize dust emissions from sowing.

The challenge to seed treaters

Maintaining the license to sell in an increasingly challenging regulatory environment is no easy task. Emissions of fine dust from treated seeds, for example, are an environmentally critical issue and thus of particular interest to regulators. For upcoming registrations of seed treatment products in the 28 countries of the European Union (EU), for example, the industry has to demonstrate that 90 % of EU seed treatment sites using the product to be registered meet the Heubach* dust values prescribed by regulators for its use. In other words, 450 of Europe's approx. 500 hybrid crop seed sites will have to demonstrate full compliance with the required quality standard. And the requirements are increasing; from 2016 onwards, the valid dust reference norm for cereal seed in the EU is 4 g per 100 kg of seed.

So what can the industry do to meet this regulatory challenge? It decided to implement industry-driven certification schemes. This is undoubtedly a better solution for seed treaters than regulations imposed by the authorities because an industry-driven certification system is less bureaucratic, demanding and costly, more supportive of best management practices, and allows the industry to drive quality standards.
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Learn more about the novel SweepAir technology in this video.

The business case for certification

Certification makes good business sense for a seed treater. Some may see the certification process as rather involved or aborious, but the economic rewards make it all worthwhile. Certification strengthens a seed treater's brand image and serves as a sign of quality for the sustainable solutions offered to customers. Compliance with the ESTA (European Seed Treatment Assurance) scheme, for example, provesthat a specific seed treatment process and the treated seed meet the operator- and environment-related quality and safety standards of regulators and the industry. One ESTA quality criterion, for example, is compliance with the Heubach dust values (grams of dust per unit of treated seed).

In the short term, the demand for commercially treated seeds from certified sites is rising as farmers become more aware of sustainability issues. In the longer term, a seed treatment site will profit from certification through the support given to improvements in its internal processes and the implementation of best management practices. In other words, certification not only maintains a seed treater's competitiveness in the market place; it also safeguards seed treatment's long-term future by proving that seeds are being treated professionally and sustainably.
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The badge of certified quality

Treated seed from sites certified by ESTA, for example, carries the ESTA logo as a sign of quality. ESTA, a quality control system in which individual seed treatment sites are audited by independent certifying bodies, was not just developed by the seed industry for the seed industry; it is also managed by the seed industry. In this way, seed treatment sites receive valuable assistance in their ongoing improvement efforts, e.g., through the requirement to have their own quality control manager as well as through the annual assessment procedure.

Of one thing seed treaters can be sure: widespread certification will make the seed treatment industry more competitive, quality-conscious and sustainable, while enabling business-critical improvements. This will reassure both regulators and farmers, and ultimately help to maintain the industry's license to sell.
* The Heubach test is generally recognized as the standard method to determine the loss of dust from treated seeds.
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