Press comment: Proposed EU regulation concerning seed varieties

30 April 2013

The Soil Association believes the proposed new EU regulation on the marketing of plant reproductive material will put the future of our plant biodiversity at risk. It will have a disastrous effect on the availability of rare varieties and farmers’ varieties, and stop the exchange and selling of traditional seeds. This will not only affect farmers and growers in the short term by outlawing exchange of seed not currently commercially available, but in the long term will erode the diversity of species that even the large seed companies, who are driving the proposal, need to provide their future varieties.

This proposal is opposed by the two EU directorates that understand agriculture and the environment namely DG AGRI (agricultural affairs) and DG ENVI (environmental affairs), but is being pushed through by the DG Sanco (Sanitary and Consumer affairs) responding to pressure from hard lobbying by the globalised agricultural seed industry. The DG Sanco will present its proposal to the conference of commissioners on the 6 May 2013.

Ben Raskin, Head of Horticulture for the Soil Association comments on the proposed regulation:
“Access to seed and plant propagating material from diverse varieties is essential in order for farmers to adapt to the local environment and respond to changing climatic conditions. The proposed regulation goes even further than the current European seed law which favours the production of uniform varieties (protected by plant breeder’s rights) and discriminates against less homogenous open pollinated varieties and populations. This has already resulted in a non-reversible loss of agro-biodiversity. The proposed regulation will require every seed to be registered and an annual license to be paid for each variety.

Under this law it won’t be possible to register old and new niche varieties and populations (e.g. conservation and amateur varieties, landraces and farmers’ selections) based only on an officially recognized description (ORD), without official registration and certification, as is currently practiced.

If this regulation is passed, not only will we lose a huge number of plant varieties , we will lose the amazing diversity of appearance, taste, and potential benefits such as disease resistance and nutritional content.

Furthermore despite assurances that this law will only apply to farmers the latest draft legislation suggests that every gardener will be subject to the regulation – the effects will be disastrous for farmers and growers”

There is an open petition against this proposal here

We also encourage supporters to contact the decision makers before the 6 May here

For further details contact Ben Raskin

For press enquiries please contact the Soil Association press office

Natasha Collins-Daniel, Press Office Manager – 0117 914 2448 / 07827 925380 /
Holly Black, Digital Communications and Press Officer – 0117 314 5170 /


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