Organic growing charity Garden Organic has given a cautious welcome to the new EU seed directive as a "step in the right direction" but with a need for "vigilance in the future" after fears the proposals would put plant biodiversity at risk.
The new Regulation on Marketing of Plant Reproductive Material (PRM), which was made public on Monday 6 May by the EU, exempts local heritage seed networks such as Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed library and allows seed exchange between individuals and groups.
The new directive also identifies for the first time a need for more relaxed registration rules for heritage varieties and conservation varieties including land races - with all such categories being exempt from the testing or other requirements for the legislation.
The directive will be restricted to commercial growers and home gardeners will be permitted to save and swap unapproved seed. Individuals and small organisations will also be able to grow and supply/sell unapproved vegetable seed - as long as they have less than 10 employees and an annual turnover of less than 2m euros.
Garden Organic development director Bret Willers said: "We welcome the news that the EU has seen sense and chosen not to include the Heritage Seed Library and small scale seed exchange networks within this legislation.
"It’s very much a step in the right direction from the EU but we must be vigilant for the future to ensure there is no backtracking to some of the original and more draconian proposals.
Despite the concessions, the charity has said that other parts of the law are quite restrictive and there are clauses that mean the concessions could be removed in the future without coming back to the parliament for a vote.