b'Flax is back. (Photo: ILVO) President Marc Ballekens, flanked by two vice-presidentsEsther Monard and Jean-Paul Jorion. (Photo: Seed@Bel)THE SEED ASSOCIATIONS IN BELGIUM INTELLECTUAL PROPERTYBACK IN TIME The operation of the newly built federation is divided into six Between the world wars, the Belgian seed sector had many asso- sections: sugar beet, maize, cereals, forage grass, horticulture ciations, each with a well-defined specialty. The importers ofand intellectual property. Van Laecke adds, This last section is fodder seeds were members of IMZA; the traders in vegetablecompletely new. But it is incorporated with good reason. Without seeds were regrouped within the F.B.H. (Belgian Horticulturalroyalties, a breeder has no source of income while re-investing Federation); the flaxseed traders formed a section within thein the development of new varieties. ABV (Algemeen Belgisch Vlasverbond); importers of sugar beet seeds defended their interests through "The trade union chamber of beet seed importers"; and the private breeders and agents of foreign varieties were grouped under the associa-tion Ascremon (the Association of Creators and Monopolists ofBelgian agriculture has Varieties). Ascremon was the ancestor of ASSINSEL (the father of the new Seed@Bel). evolved dramatically On October 11, 1944, the grain seed trade sector was born under the name of SEMZA (Semences Zaden, or seeds induring the last 35 years. French and Dutch). At that time, more than 50 family companies were active in that sector. They all worked in service of newlyTwo-thirds of the farmers modernizing agriculture that aimed to increase yields in order to feed the growing population. With the changes in the worldhave stopped farming.and in agriculture, a fragmented approach showed weaknesses when representing the interests of the ag sector and the com-panies involved. So, in 1980, after long negotiations, the entire seed sector decided to unite in one association: SEMZABEL. Only the breeders kept their independent association ASSINSEL. For several decades, these two large associations managedSince 2012, Belgium had a system of royalty collection based all technical and regulatory aspects of seed trade on a nationalon voluntary online declaration of the use of farm-saved seed and international level. When it became clear that all of the(FSS). Due to limited response, a different system was created members of ASSINSEL were also members of SEMZABEL, andrecently where the contractors who clean the farm-saved seed both associations were addressing the same issues in a globaliz- collect the royalties directly from the farmers and then forward ing seed world, calls for a merger grew louder and louder.that amount to the association. After the seed-cleaning season, the paid amounts are compared to the official declared amounts FINALLY, THE MERGER of FSS to check if they correspond. Van Laecke says, To reach In April 2019, Seed@Bel was born. Seed@Bel has 28 mem- this agreement, we worked in close collaboration with the cereal bers, which together represent more than 90% of the Belgiantrade association Synagra, as well as with the farmers associa-seed sector. Marc Ballekens (Limagrain), former chairman oftions and government officials. The next step will be to establish SEMZABEL, is now president of Seed@Bel. He is assisted bymonitoring of the system. At the beginning of 2020, we will audit Esther Monard (AVEVE, for Flanders) and Jean-Paul Jorionthe contractors to see if they have followed the agreement. (Jorion Philipseeds, for Wallonia) as vice-presidents. Kristiaan Van Laecke takes on the role of Secretary-General. He combinesNEW BREEDING TECHNIQUESthis with a full-time job as Head of the Plant Sciences Unit ofAnother new topic within Seed@Bel is \'new breeding tech-Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Foodniques\', which are becoming more important in the seed sector. (ILVO). Important dossiers for the seed sector include theKristiaan Van Laecke: Theres actually a lot of work being increasing prohibitions of seed treatments, intellectual propertydone on the genetic level. The most exciting challenge is how on seeds and new breeding techniques, he explains. to address climate change. Varieties with a better resistance to EUROPEAN-SEED.COMIEUROPEAN SEED I 25'