On Monday May 6th a draconian new law will be put before the European Commission, which creates new powers to classify and regulate all plant life anywhere in Europe
The “Plant Reproductive Material Law” will regulate all plants. It contains immediate restrictions on reproduction of 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, approved and accepted by a new “EU Plant Variety Agency”. Moreover, an annual fee must also be paid to the Agency if that particular variety is to be used by anyone.
Following a huge outcry from consumer groups, small-scale farmers, and genebanks, last-minute alterations have been made, allowing home gardeners (but not farmers) to at least give seed to each other for free without breaking the law.
But the rest of the law is still hugely damaging to the seed supply and will make it much harder for people to get hold of the seeds they want to grow at home.
Ben Gabel, vegetable breeder and director of The Real Seed Catalogue, said:
“This law will immediately stop the development of vegetable varieties for home gardeners, organic growers, and small-scale market farmers. Home gardeners have really different needs – for example they grow by hand, not machine, and can’t or don’t want to use such powerful chemical sprays. There’s no way to register the varieties suitable for home use as they 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.”
“We used to be able to sell ‘Amateur’ varieties of vegetable seed, so home growers could buy seed that big farmers wouldn’t be interested in, but that has been abolished. It will become really hard to get hold of the seed you want to grow at home as any company with more than 4 employees is now banned from producing them.”
“Even worse, it will reduce the choice available to large farmers as well. For industrial-scale agriculture, the law will only allow new varieties of vegetable if they are tested and proven to be better than ones currently in use. This is foolish, often you don’t discover the benefits of a new variety until you’ve been growing it for several years, for example when a new disease comes along that it turns out to be resistant to. In a free market, it should be up to farmers to try out any new crop they like and decide what variety is best based on their own experience.”
“There’s no need for this complex new regulation. We already have very strong consumer-protection laws that cover all this – seeds must be fit for the purpose sold, match their description, and perform as advertised. The old seed laws already cover health, traceability and safety. Anyone who produces seed is already inspected and certified by the Secretary of State. “
“This is an instance of bureaucracy out of control. All this new law does is create a whole new raft of EU civil servants being paid to move mountains of papers round all day, while killing off the seed supply to home gardeners and interfering with the right of farmers to grow what they want. It also very worrying that they have given themselves the power to regulate and licence any plant species of any sort at all in the future – not just agricultural plants, but grasses, mosses, flowers, anything at all – without having to bring it back to the Council for a vote.”
“This law was written for the needs of the globalised farm-seed industry, who supply seed by the ton to industrial farmers. It should not apply to seed used by home gardeners and small market growers, who have very different needs.”
“We call for a total exemption from the law for seed supplied in small packets directly to individual consumers.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
• Plant Reproductive Material Law goes before the EU commissioners on May 6th 2013
• Expected to be opposed by DEFRA for the UK, plus German, Austrian, Swedish, Danish agriculture ministers
• Law drafted by DG SANCO (consumer affairs), opposed by DG AGRI & ENVI (agriculture & environment)
• Leaked final draft of the law can be found here: http://www.2shared.com/document/CTOm2rdD/3rd_Draft.html
• Executive Summary of Law does not reflect stricter reality of the actual articles in the law
• Law will effectively kill off home-garden seeds in the EU
• Huge public opposition: already 197,000 signatures to the Arche Noah petition http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF8&eotf=1&u=http%3A//helfen.global2000.at/de/node/19
• Media contact: Ben Gabel, The Real Seed Catalogue: firstname.lastname@example.org