Seed industry relieved at legislative revisions on EU regulations

Concessions made to original proposal as a result of outcry include allowing home gardeners to use unapproved seed.

Arrigo says revisions will lessen controversy and increase flexibility - photo: SImon Jacobs
Arrigo says revisions will lessen controversy and increase flexibility - photo: SImon Jacobs

Industry groups have welcomed last-minute revisions made to the EU regulation on the marketing of plant reproductive material.

The original seed law proposal was strongly criticised by seed companies and organisations, who maintained that it would have threatened rare varieties and reduced biodiversity.

Concessions made as a result of the outcry included permitting unapproved seed to be used by home gardeners, seed banks and small organisations with fewer than ten employees.

Franchi Seeds director Paolo Arrigo said: "Anything that makes the impact less controversial and more flexible is an improvement. I'm a fan of the EC but sometimes these laws come along where there's no common sense. These revisions are really just common sense."

He added: "It doesn't affect us as a seed company - all of our varieties are registered - but I'm still not sure whether it's necessary to change the status quo."

The Soil Association also welcomed the revisions but warned there is a concern that the EU directorate could rescind the exemptions without going back for a vote and there are still major barriers to farmer and grower variety choice in the legislation.

Head of horticulture Ben Raskin told the BBC's Farming Today: "We welcome the last-minute revisions that exempt the micro-businesses and amateur growers. But there are still concerns, partly because they can rescind this at any time and there are still some major barriers to variety choice in the new legislation.

"This really is to do with the fact that small companies are great at maintaining current varieties but they don't have the resources that some of the large businesses have to develop new varieties."

Industry comment

"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 that there is no backtracking to some of the original and more draconian proposals."

Bret Willers, development director, Garden Organic


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