• These definitions are meant to provide a clear understanding of phrases used in the Access to Seeds Index and may be updated from time to time.

  • Access to Seeds Strategy

    A strategy that aims to increase access to seeds for smallholder farmers and incorporates the following six dimensions: availability, affordability, suitability, capability, profitability and autonomy.

  • Adoption Strategy

    A strategy that enables smallholder farmers to start using a new agricultural product, for example tailored packaging and the establishment of trusted distribution networks.

  • Advocacy (1)

    Any activity carried out to change public opinion or gain public support.

  • Agricultural Biodiversity (2)

    Agricultural biodiversity is the diversity of crops and their wild relatives, trees, animals, microbes and other species that contribute to agricultural production.

  • Benefit Sharing (3)

    The fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the utilization of plant genetic resources obtained from collections under the multilateral system of the IT-PGRFA.

  • Biofortification (4)

    The practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals, in a food crop through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology.

  • Biosafety System (5)

    Any legislation, regulation or policy intended to regulate and control the transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms that may have adverse effects on biological diversity. Such a system aims to ensure the safety of human and animal health and an adequate level of environmental protection.

  • Breeders’ Exemption (6)

    Exception to Breeders’ Rights (see below), allowing plant breeders to use freely plant varieties for developing new and distinct plant varieties.

  • Breeders’ Rights (6)

    Rights granted to the breeder of a new variety of a plant species that give the breeder exclusive control over the propagating material (including seed, cuttings, divisions, tissue culture) of that new variety for a number of years.

  • Bribery (7)

    The offering, promising, giving, accepting or soliciting of an advantage as an inducement for an action which is illegal, unethical or a breach of trust. Inducements can take the form of gifts, loans, fees, rewards or other advantages (taxes, services, donations, etc.).

  • Code of Conduct (7)

    Statement of principles and values that establishes a set of expectations and standards for how an organization, government body, company, affiliated group or individual will behave, including minimal levels of compliance and disciplinary actions for the organization, its staff and volunteers.

  • Collaborative Research

    Research that involves the cooperation of researchers, institutions, organizations, communities, farmers and/or farmer organizations.

  • Corruption (7)

    The abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

  • Ex Situ Conservation (3)

    Conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture outside their natural habitat.

  • F1 Hybrid

    Hybrid of two homozygous parent lines. The F1 hybrid combines desired traits of both parent lines and has a uniform phenotype.

  • Farm-saved Seed (6)

    Seed that is produced on a farm for the purpose of re-sowing on the same farm and not for the purpose of sale.

  • Farmers’ Privilege (6)

    The practice by farmers of harvesting and saving seeds for their own use in the next growing season.

  • Formal Seed System (8, 9)

    A framework of institutions, both public and private, and well-defined methodologies, linked together by their involvement in or influence on the multiplication, processing and distribution of improved seed.

  • Genetically Modified (GM) Varieties (10)

    Crop varieties that have been modified by the application of recombinant DNA technology or genetic engineering, a technique used for altering a living organism’s genetic material.

  • Genetic Resources or Germplasm (11)

    Any material of plant origin, including reproductive and vegetative propagating material, containing functional units of heredity.

  • Global Crop Diversity Trust (12)

    An independent international fund which has as its objective the provision of a permanent source of funds to support the long-term conservation of ex situ germplasm. This includes characterization, documentation, evaluation and exchange of related information, knowledge and technologies.

  • Global Field Crops or Staple Crops (13)

    Plants grown for food that constitute the dominant part of the human diet and supply a major proportion of energy and nutrient needs.

  • Global Vegetable Crops (14)

    Any of various herbaceous plants having fruit, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, leaves or flower parts that are used as food.

  • Improved Variety (6)

    A new variety of a plant species which produces higher yields, higher quality or provides better resistance to plant pests and diseases while minimizing the pressure on the natural environment.

  • In Situ Conservation (3)

    The conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings and, in the case of domesticated or cultivated plant species, in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties.

  • Inclusive Business Model (15)

    Business model that integrates the poor, as consumers, distributors, suppliers and/or employees.

  • Index Country

    Any country covered by the 2019 Access to Seeds Index.

  • Informal Seed System (8, 9)

    An informally structured mechanism, such as retaining seed on-farm from previous harvests, farmer-to farmer seed exchange based on barter, social obligation, etc., by which farmers can fulfill their seed requirements.

  • Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) (16, 17)

    The rights given to persons over the creation of their minds which the law protects from unauthorized use by others. IP is protected by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable the creators to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create for a certain period of time. Industrial IP is protected primarily to stimulate innovation, design and the creation of technology. In this category fall inventions (protected by patents), industrial designs and trade secrets.

  • International Treaty (3)

    The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (IT-PGRFA), which strives for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity as far as sustainable agriculture and food security are concerned.

  • Lobbying (18)

    Any activity carried out to influence a government or (public) institution’s policies and decisions in favor of a specific cause or outcome.

  • Local Crops (19, 20)

    A diverse set of small crops that tend to be regionally important but are not traded around the world and receive little or no attention from commercial breeding companies. They often have a strong cultural significance and can be vital for the livelihood of smallholder farmers in developing countries. They are often called ‘orphan’ or ‘neglected’ crops.

  • Measurement Area

    One of seven measurement areas in which the companies included in the 2016 Index are assessed. These are: governance and strategy, public policy and stakeholder engagement, genetic resources and intellectual property, research and development, marketing and sales, capacity building and local seed sector development (Global Index) or production (Regional Index). In each measurement area, companies are assessed with indicators in four categories: Commitment, Performance, Transparency and Innovation.

  • Methodology

    The Index framework that measures the extent to which leading seed companies use their knowledge, technology, varieties and seeds to benefit smallholder farmers. The Index is guided by five principles, which, through rigorous stakeholder dialogue, led to seven measurement areas in which company activity is assessed. The five principles are: access dimensions, farmer as entrepreneur, farmer development, seed systems and sustainable intensification. The scope of the Index is defined in terms of the companies included, geographic focus and crop selection.

  • Multilateral System (3)

    A structure, provided by the IT-PGRFA, through which participating parties (130 countries and the EU) agree to provide facilitated access to genetic resources for food and agriculture, and to share the benefits arising from the utilization of these resources on a complementary and mutually reinforcing basis.

  • Multiplication

    Seed production.

  • Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit- sharing (21)

    The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefitsharing is a supplementary international agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It provides a legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources (see also Benefit sharing).

  • Open-pollinated Variety (OPV) (22)

    A variety naturally cross-pollinated by insects, birds, wind or water or by selfpollination from male and female flower parts on the same plant.

  • Phytosanitary System (23)

    Any legislation, regulation or policy having the purpose to prevent the introduction and/or spread of pests of plants and plant products, or to limit the economic impact of regulated non-quarantine pests.

  • Public Gene Bank (24, 25)

    A collection of seeds and other plant reproductive material, primarily of cultivated plants and their wild relatives. The mandate of a gene bank is to conserve these collected plant genetic resources and provide access to them.

  • Quality Assurance

    A set of tests, measures and procedures, normally based on international and/or national certification standards, to assure the consistent quality of seeds throughout the processes of development, testing, production and packaging.

  • Quality Seeds (26)

    Seeds that consistently meets required standards of genetic and physiological purity (viability and vigor) and good health.

  • Seed grade

    The description of seed quality, based on the vigor and viability of the seed, and its adaptation to specific cultivation methods.

  • Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture (27)

    Increasing yields using fewer resources and minimizing or reversing negative environmental impacts. This can be achieved by making the current agricultural system more efficient through the use of new technologies or by improving current production systems.

  • Technology (28, 29)

    The application of scientific knowledge through which the genetic and physical characteristics of seeds are improved. It involves such activities as variety development, evaluation and release, seed production, seed processing, seed storage, seed testing, seed certification, seed quality control, seed marketing etc.

  • Variety (3)

    Plant grouping, within a single botanical taxon of the lowest known rank, defined by the reproducible expression of its distinguishing and other genetic characteristics.

References Cited in Definitions
1. Oxford Dictionaries:
2. Bioversity International:
3. Part IV International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture:
4. WHO:
5. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety:
6. UPOV System of Plant Variety Protection:
7. Transparency International, 2009, ‘The Anti-Corruption Plain Language Guide’:
8. Overseas Development Institute:
9. Louwaars N., 2004, ‘Seeds of Confusion. The Impact of Policies on Seed Systems’:
10. FAO:
11. FAO International Code of Conduct for Plant Germplasm Collecting and Transfer:
12. Article 1 Agreement for the Establishment of the Global Crop Diversity Trust:
13. FAO, 1995, ‘Staple Foods: What Do People Eat?’:
14. Oxford Dictionaries:
15. Wach E., 2012, ‘Measuring the ‘Inclusivity’ of Inclusive Business’:
16. Cornell University Law School:
17. WTO:
18. Oxford Dictionaries:
19. Stanford University:
20. Bioversity International:
21. CBD:
22. FAO:
23. International Plant Protection Convention, International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs):
24. CGIAR:
25. Rasmussen M., ‘The Role of Gene Banks in Finding and Conserving our Cultural Heritage’:
26. FAO, Sindhua J.S. and Kumarb I., ‘Quality Seed Production in Hybrid Rice’:
27. IFPRI ‘2013 Global Food Policy Report’:
28. Oxford Dictionaries:
29. FAO, Feistritzer W.P., 1975,‘Cereal Seed Technology: A Manual of Cereal Seed Production, Quality Control, and Distribution’