Seed commercialization is the process of delivering high quality seed to the marketplace so farmers will have the best possible chance of consistently producing high yielding, valuable crops. One important component of commercialization is identity preservation, a system that segregates and maintains the integrity and varietal purity of agricultural commodities to enhance the value of the final product. In its simplest form, identity preservation has been used since the beginning of agriculture when seeds and grain of different crops were first traded separately. As crops and production have diversified to meet market demands, the need for segregation through stewardship programs and identity preservation has become more important. Crop varieties with unique traits – such as high oleic sunflowers – require programs to channel these commodities to specific markets to capture the added value. Similarly, organic commodities must be produced according to specific criteria and segregated in the marketplace in order to receive premium prices.
Seed genetic purity standards have been established to assure that when growers buy seed, what’s listed on the label is what’s in the bag. While in production agriculture, it is virtually impossible to assure that no unwanted or off-type plants or pollen are present in a seed production field and that all handling and conveyance equipment and storage facilities are 100 percent free of contamination, seed certification ensures buyers that their seed is within purity tolerances. The introduction of genetically engineered (GE) varieties has created additional issues for seed genetic purity, particularly for producers seeking to meet organic marketing standards or who are engaged in international trade. GE varieties are individually regulated by national agencies, so approval generally is required from the importing country before those varieties can be legally traded.
Intellectual property (IP) protection allows plant breeders to control commercialization of their plant varieties and plant products (such as seeds), but agricultural patents can also make it difficult for researchers to access patented technologies when developing specialty crops or crops for humanitarian purposes. Groups such as the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA) promote licensing practices that provide sufficient motivation for developing new crops and technologies while allowing researchers access to the intellectual property information they need to utilize scientific innovations for the greater good.
Stewardship programs - Crops that are produced with a set of defined practices or are excluded from the majority of a commodity require programs to channel them to specific markets. Crops developed using biotechnologies also require channeling programs, as markets differ in their acceptance of these commodities.