Don’t tow corporate line on seed: MEPs must protect public good

The European Parliament hearing (26th November 2013) on the review of the legislation on rules for marketing of seed and plant propagation material raised concerns amongst stakeholders. Comments from many of the MEPs demonstrate lack of awareness of the importance of agro-biodiversity, our future food security and the role of small farmers.

“We are at a crossroad to decide what kind of farming will prevail in the EU in the future – and the decision on what kind of reproductive material farmers can buy and use to produce food will define this future in large parts,” said Marco Schlüter, Director of IFOAM EU. “The Silvestris draft report on seed fails to deliver clear support for small operators to ensure the conservation and further development of genetic resources. It is moreover disturbing to see that many members of the AGRI committee seem to be concerned about protecting large seed companies rather than food security, biodiversity and the rights of farmers to choose seed suited to agro-ecological farming.”

“Breeders who work according to the organic principles need fair access to the seed market,” underlines Gebhard Rossmanith, organic breeder and member of the IFOAM EU seed task force. “It must be ensured that open-pollinated varieties can be registered under adapted standards provided by the legislation. There is an increasing risk that industrial varieties and hybrids become the rule – whereas traditional ways of breeding are sidelined under exemptions. This trend must be clearly rejected: If breeders want to market an open-pollinated variety for organic farming and do not claim plant variety protection, their market registration must be possible following adapted rules: The varieties must be tested under adapted climatic and agronomic conditions, uniformity and stability must be assessed with adapted criteria.”

“It is unacceptable that fewer and fewer companies increasingly control seed. It puts seed and farmers, not to mention citizens, in the hands of a few players. To ensure access to diverse seed and food, democratisation is needed. The organic sector will continue to raise awareness amongst citizens for the importance of diversity of genetic resources and varieties,” explains Antje Kölling, IFOAM EU Policy Manager. “We demand smarter rules for a diverse sector: 1.) The seed work of small producers must be left out of the scope of the legislation – only activities on commercial scale must fall under this marketing regulation. 2.) Simplification is needed for the marketing of genetic resources as well as for varieties and populations that bear a wider genetic spectrum. 3.) Adapted rules must be applied for open-pollinated varieties, the testing of the value of cultivation and use must be voluntary. 4.) Transparency rules must ensure that breeders and farmers have the freedom to choose what breeding techniques they want in their seed and to avoid seed that contains any patent.”

There are also implications for small-scale growers, allotment holders and home gardeners. See Real Seeds information page.

The Soil Association now has a web page with all of the information required to encourage people to email MEPs with their concerns for the proposed EU Seed Directive here.

Read Ben Raskin’s blog Using a chainsaw to crack a nut.

It is essential that we take action now, in order to have the largest impact we can before the 4th December deadline.

Sign up to our e-Bulletin

Sign up to ORC’s e-bulletin and be the first to receive updates from our in-the-field research and the latest organic and agroecological news and events. Delivered to your inbox monthly.

Newsletter signup

By submitting this form, you are agreeing for us to contact you by email about our research, knowledge exchange, policy support and fundraising. Your details will only be used by the Organic Research Centre (ORC) in adherence with our Privacy Policy.

If you would like to change how you receive communications from the ORC or update your contact details, please click the appropriate link at the footer of any email you receive from us, or contact: