Industry and Defra agree position on potentially costly regulation on plant reproductive material

Growers, industry bodies and media aim to push through changes to latest European legislation.

Spencer: campaigned on issue - image: HW
Spencer: campaigned on issue - image: HW

A joint campaign by growers, industry bodies and the media has helped progress changes in EC plant reproductive material (PRM) legislation that in its original form would have brought new regulation to ornamental horticulture, drastically reducing the range of plants available in the trade.

All plants known by "common knowledge names" would, under the proposed EU regulation on PRM, have required lengthy and costly contentious article 50 "officially recognised descriptions" (HW, 13 September).

Defra and the industry reached "a degree of unanimity" on a new HTA draft on the measures at a meeting on 22 October and Defra will now use it as a negotiating position with the EC to try and force through changes.

Plants for Europe owner Graham Spencer, Farplants director Martin Emmett, the RHS, NFU, Plant Heritage and others campaigned on the issue. Spencer said: "They're listening and recognising a problem. But until we get the regulations through the European Parliament, we're not out of the woods."

The UK industry also met EC UK representation head Jacqueline Minor on 17 October. HTA policy manager Gary Scroby said: "They realise our interpretation of the draft is the correct interpretation. It all boils down to the fact they regarded the 'commonly known as' description as imprecise.

"We made the point it is catalogues, lists, web entries - all public-domain knowledge that make up 'commonly known as' descriptions of plants. They zoned in on 'public domain'."

Draft policy Pushing for improvements

EC working groups will complete the first read through of the draft by January. HTA policy manager Gary Scroby said: "The EC really didn't know it was an issue until the media picked up on it. We're not fighting anyone though. It's about improving the current bad drafting.'"

HTA chief executive Carol Paris warned that plant reproductive material legislation as it stands could "decimate" the UK industry.

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