Update on the EU Seed Legislation


As many of you already know several organisations have been running campaigns to highlight the impact of a draconian revision to EU Seed Legislation which was being voted on today, Monday May 6th.  Several of you will have signed the petitions and indeed may have effected your own lobbying. Those that did will probably know the outcome, but for those that didn’t the campaigns did make a difference, although issues still exist and moreover the giant agribusinesses will continue to lobby as the law goes through the EU, and then is translated into UK laws.

The following summary is taken from the Real Seed Catalogue:

The “Plant Reproductive Material Law” regulates all plants. It contains immediate restrictions on vegetables and woodland trees, while creating powers to restrict all other plants of any other species at a later date.

Under the new law, it will immediately be illegal to grow, reproduce or trade any vegetable seed or tree that has not been tested and approved by a new “EU Plant Variety Agency, who will make a list of approved plants. Moreover, an annual fee must also be paid to the Agency and if not paid, they cannot be grown.

Following a huge outcry and intense lobbying from consumer groups, small-scale farmers, gene-banks, and even some member-state governments, a few last-minute alterations were made, which while not perfect, have reduced the impact quite a lot.

The key last minute concessions that were made – and this really was only due to public pressure are as follows:

  • Home gardeners are now permitted to save and swap unapproved seed without breaking the law.
  • Individuals & small organisations can grow and supply/sell unapproved vegetable seed – as long as they have less than 10 employees.
  • Seedbanks can grow unapproved seed without breaking the law.
  • There could be easier (in an unspecified way) rules for large producers of seeds suitable for organic agriculture etc, in some (unspecified) future legislation – maybe.

But the rest of the law is still overly restrictive, and in the long run will make it much harder for people to get hold of good seeds they want to grow at home. There are also clauses that mean the above concessions could be removed in the future without coming back to the Parliament for a vote.

The main registration system is no good for home gardeners -varieties suitable for home use don’t meet the strict criteria of the Plant Variety Agency, which is only concerned about approving the sort of seed used by industrial farmers.

Because of this, seed companies used to be able to register and sell ‘Amateur’ varieties that didn’t pass the tests, for home growers. Under the new system, they are now called ‘Niche’ varieties and there is no testing or registration at all, but there is a big catch: any company with more than 10 employees is now banned from producing them.So new varieties for home growers can only be developed by tiny organisations, and they may not have the resources to do it well. There will be very little professional development of varieties for home gardeners or small-scale sustainable agriculture. “