ISF International Seed Federation

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History of the International Seed Federation

ISF is a non-political, non-profit organisation resulting from the merger of two highly respected international organisations: FIS and ASSINSEL.


The first International Seed Congress, which led to the establishment of the Fédération Internationale du Commerce des Semences (FIS), was held in London in 1924. t was followed by FIS congresses in Bologna in 1928, Paris in 1929 and Budapest in 1930.

These early congresses were successful in achieving the fundamental goal of establishing strong links within the seed industry.The first draft of the rules for international trade of seed for sowing was presented in Bologna in 1928 and the rules entered into force on 1 July 1929.

Activities slowed down before and during World War II but with the Paris Congress in 1950, FIS became effective again. The Rules and Usages for the Trade in Seeds for Sowing Purposes were revised. FIS extended its activities to include vegetable seed. In 1955 the Cereal Section was formed, followed by the Forest Tree Seed Group in 1964 and the Sugar Beet Seed Section in 1968. Its membership grew and in 1970 the very important 8th edition of the FIS Rules and Usages was adopted. With this edition the Canadian and US associations declared their commitment to the Rules.

Activities reached a new height in 1994 with the adoption of the 12th edition of the Rules and Usages where the rules of the various Sections were merged to form one common text supplemented by brief crop specific annexes.

From the beginning FIS stressed the importance of technological developments for the seed industry. In 1954 FIS emphasized the importance of Plant Breeders’ Rights and urged its members to press for government recognition of reciprocal protection of breeding products. In 1958 the FIS Congress passed a resolution recognizing Breeders’ Rights and the right to charge licence fees when protected varieties were sold. 


The International Association of Plant Breeders for the Protection of Plant Varieties (ASSINSEL, derived from the French 'Association Internationale des Sélectionneurs pour la Protection de Obentions Végétales') was established in 1938.

Its main objective was the adoption of an international convention for the protection of new varieties of plants. A motion to this effect was passed at its 1956 Congress in Semmering, Austria calling for the organisation of an international diplomatic conference to consider the protection of plant varieties. The first diplomatic conference of UPOV was held in 1957 and the first Act of the UPOV Convention was adopted in 1961.

Since then ASSINSEL became involved in successive revisions of the UPOV Convention and in the adoption of rules for its implementation. In 2002 it adopted a paper 'ASSINSEL View on Intellectual Property' that highlighted the core of the seed industry. 


The mid-1970s saw significant changes in the plant breeding and seed industry with mergers, consolidations and 'integration' of the whole seed chain. Plant breeders and seed producers became a single entity. The rationale of having two separate organisations representing the seed industry was under question. A first unsuccessful attempt to merge FIS and ASSINSEL was made in 1986. After two years of intensive talks and negotiations they finally merged on the occasion of the annual Congress in Chicago in 2002 to become ISF, the International Seed Federation.


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ISF Secretariat - Chemin du Reposoir 7 - 1260 Nyon Switzerland

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ISF Secretariat - Chemin du Reposoir 7 - 1260 Nyon Switzerland

tel +41 22 365 44 20 - fax +41 22 365 44 21 -