SEED CERTIFICATION AND PLANT VARIETY PROTECTION SERVICES
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The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) is a State Corporation established in October 1996. The Corporation's activities and services involve offering inspectorate services on all matters related to plant health and quality control of agricultural inputs and produce. The activities include:
- Certification of the quality of seeds and fertilizers.
- Testing and monitoring the presence of harmful residual agro-chemicals on agricultural produce, soils and water systems.
- Co-ordination of the release of superior and well-adapted varieties/cultivars to the farming community.
- Protecting the rights of the breeders/discoverers of new plant varieties through grant of rights to the owners of such varieties and registering them.
- Preventing introduction into the country of harmful foreign weeds, pests and diseases through adherence to strict quarantine regulations and procedures.
- Inspecting and grading agricultural produce for import and export to ensure that they are of high and acceptable quality.
- Implementing the national policy on the introduction and use of genetically modified plant species, insects and microorganisms in Kenya.
The key services of the department are; Variety testing and release (NPT, DUS), Plant Variety protection (PBR), Seed Certification, Authorization of persons and trade facilitation. Other support services include; coordination of seed industry, capacity building of staff and stakeholders and farmer advice
Core mandates include;
- Implementation of the Seeds and Plant Varieties Act (CAP 326)
- Regulate matters relating to plant variety protection, seeds and plant varieties
- Implement plant variety protection in Kenya, administer plant breeders’ rights and maintain the Plant Breeders’ Rights Register;
- Undertake plant variety testing and description, seed certification;
- In consultation with other relevant agencies, develop and implement standards for seed and plant material;
- Register and license seed merchants, seed growers, agents and any other person who may require to be registered under the provisions of this Act.
Evaluation and release of new varieties in Kenya is governed by the Seeds and Plant varieties Act (cap 326),2012 and the accompanying Seeds and Plant Varieties (Variety Evaluation and Release) Regulations,2016 of the laws of Kenya. Any new variety of crops listed in the second Schedule of Variety Evaluation and Release Regulations must undergo testing under National Performance Trials (NPTs) and Distinct, Uniformity and Stability (DUS) tests, show compliance to the prescribed release criteria and be officially released before commercialization. All other crop listed in schedule one of regulation are eligible for testing and if compliant are listed
National Performance Trials
National Performance Trials (NPTs) also none as Value for Cultivation and Use (VCU) is done by KEPHIS following protocols approved by the National Performance Trials Committee (NPTC), while DUS is done following UPOV technical Guidelines or National Technical Guidelines. These tests are done to ensure that only superior varieties in terms of yields and other attributes are released for commercialization to the farming community. Crops in schedule two include:- Cereals, – Maize, Wheat, Barley, Sorghum, Millet, Oats, Triticale Pulses – Beans, Peas, Cowpeas, Pigeon peas Oil crops – Sunflower, Oilseed rape, Linseed, Soyabeans, Sesame, Groundnuts Grasses – All types of grasses. Root crops – Irish potatoes, Sweet potato, Cassava. For procedure and forms follow the link
Plant Variety Protection
Plant variety protection, “plant breeder’s right” is a form of intellectual property right granted to the breeder of a new plant variety, by the state, in relation to certain Acts concerning the exploitation of the protected variety which require the prior authorization of the breeder. The breeders’ rights (for protected varieties) are granted exclusively to persons or institutions breeding, discovering and developing new varieties of plants. Variety protection is applicable to new varieties of all plant genera and species.
Purpose of Plant Variety Protection
- The development of a new variety is usually a long and costly undertaking. The Plant Breeders' Rights gives breeders a chance to recoup costs and profit from the breeding investment.
- By providing an incentive to breeders, Plant Breeders' Rights encourage investment and effort into plant breeding in Kenya.
- The rights scheme also allows Kenyans access to internationally bred varieties which would not be availed to them without legal protection of these varieties.
- The breeder’s exemption, whereby protected plant varieties can be freely used for further plant breeding, is an important feature of the UPOV system which advances progress in plant breeding.
- Plant variety protection encourages the development of new, improved plant varieties that lead to improved competitiveness in foreign markets and to development of the rural economy.
- The result is that farmers gain access to an increased number and range of improved varieties.
Rights of Grant Holder
Plant Breeder’s Rights confer exclusive ownership of the:-
- Protected variety
- propagating material of the protected variety
- Essentially derived varieties
- harvested material of the protected variety and
- products made directly from the harvested material of the protected variety
- Limits and Exceptions to Rights of a Grant Holder
The following acts shall not infringement of breeder’s rights:
- Acts done privately and for non- commercial purposes;
- Acts done for experimental purpose
- Acts done for the purpose of breeding other varieties.
- Acts done by a farmer, within reasonable limits, with the purpose of propagating, on his own holdings.
Grant of Plant Breeder’s Rights
A grant of Plant Breeders Rights may be made for a variety if it is:
- an acceptable denomination (variety name) is proposed
- the required fee(s) have been paid.
Term of grant for PBRs
- Plant Breeders' Rights are granted for a term of up to 25 years beginning from the date on which the grant of the PBR takes effect.
- For fruit trees, rootstocks, forest, ornamental trees and grape vines – not less than 25 years.
- For all other plant materials - not less than 20.
The objective of seed certification is to supply high quality seed to farmers, which is true to identity, high in purity and germination capacity and free from pests and diseases. Seed quality is most important aspect in crop production, as high quality seed is essential for good yields and good returns, and minimizes the likelihood of crop failure. It is achieved through field inspection of seed crops during active growth stage, processing inspection, sampling and testing in the seed laboratory. Certified seed must meet the minimum quality standards as stipulated out in the Seeds and Plant Varieties (Seeds) regulations of CAP 326.
The above activities of KEPHIS are undertaken at four regional offices based at its Headquarters in Nairobi, and Regional Offices at Mombasa, Nakuru and Kitale. Seed certification as stipulated in the Seeds and Plant Varieties Act (Chapter 326) of the Laws of Kenya ensures that only high quality seed of crop varieties are available for use by the farmers. The process of certification involves the following activities:
- Field inspection
This is the first step in seed certification. Before field inspection commences the seed merchants must:
- Register their fields for inspection
- Provide proof of origin of the parental materials of the varieties registered for inspection. If a new variety, this must also include the descriptors of the parental materials
- Minimum isolation distance must be observed. Timely inspection in the fields is conducted to ensure that seed resulting from a crop meant for seed purpose is of the designated variety (trueness to type) and has not been contaminated genetically or physically (varietal purity) beyond certain specific limits. The crop must be healthy and free from diseases (especially seed borne).
- Seed Processing
Seed crops of approved fields are harvested and processed to remove undesirable contaminants such as weed seeds, inert material, immature seeds, broken and diseased seeds. The seeds are also graded into different sizes and treated with protective chemicals.
- Seed Testing
Laboratory seed testing is useful in determining quality factors such as purity, germination capacity, moisture content and health status (seed-borne diseases) of seed lots.
- Labelling and Sealing
Upon satisfactory fulfillment of the prescribed requirement, every seed lot is provided with a label and a seal. Containers are labeled and sealed in such a way the seed cannot be removed or changed without damaging beyond repair, either the container, the label or the sealing device.
- Post Control
These are tests designed to ascertain whether or not the preceding control measures have been effective. The tests ensure that the characteristics of cultivars/varieties have remained unchanged in the process of multiplication. Under special circumstances, pre-control tests are necessary to determine the satisfactory fulfillment of doubted factors.
- Post Certification Survey
To ensure that all is well with the certified seed until planting time, a post-certification survey is conducted at the time of planting throughout the country, by the four regional offices of KEPHIS. Samples are taken from seed stockists, farmers planting and at market places. These samples are planted alongside the post control plots and comparisons made. When complaints of low-quality seed arise, such claims are easily verified. All appointed and licensed stockists/sellers must, therefore, ensure that they only offer for sale certified seed or seed meeting the minimum standards outlined in Cap 326. (All seeds sellers must be registered by KEPHIS).
AUTHORIZATION OF PERSONS (TO PERFORM FUNCTIONS UNDER CAP 326 ON BEHALF OF KEPHIS
Authorization is the process of:
- giving official recognition to a person or organization as having met a standard or criterion
- giving a person or organization the authority to perform a function
This provision is granted under Seed and Plant Varieties Act (Cap 326) Section 3B (1) (b)
The objective of authorization is to complement KEPHIS to enhance efficiency in the seed certification process. It also creates an environment for effective participation of both public and private sectors in the production, inspection and testing of quality planting material and promote sustainable access of affordable seed. Part of the process in authorization, is monitoring of private inspectors/entities to check on their compliance to the law, regulations, standards, protocols and authorization guidelines.For guideline, procedure and forms follow the link
All intending to trade/import/export seed must register with KEPHIS as seed merchants. A seed Import Permit and Plant Import Permit must be obtained before any importation of seed is undertaken. All imported seeds must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate and an international Seed Testing Association (ISTA). Seeds of all crops are subjected to laboratory quality tests upon arrival and must meet the gazetted minimum standards before being offered for sale. Similarly, all seed for export must meet the gazetted minimum standards and be accompanied by Kenya's phytosanitary certificate and an export permit.
- Consult the Agricultural Extension Service for advice on the suitability of various crop varieties for their specific regions.
- Buy seeds from recognised dealers/agents/stockists who must display their license and the name of the company they are representing.
- Avoid buying seed weighed from opened packets. All seed packets must have the original seal by the seed company and must be properly labeled.
- Upon payment, insist on being issued with an official receipt, which should be retained. The empty seed packets and any other labels accompanying the seed should not be destroyed, as they will help in tracing the source of such seed in case of problems.