Seed that can be saved is disappearing from the market

Bonn, Germany, 6 May 3013 – In Brussels, the EU Commission presented today the draft regulation package on animal and plant health, one of the most important regulations of the past decade. In order to avoid it becoming a topic of the 2014 election campaign, the Commission is trying to push the industry-friendly regulation through the last bit of the current parliamentary period.
In the package is also a reform of the contested seed marketing law, which has contributed with its strict market admission rules to both a worryingly high concentration of corporate power and loss of genetic diversity of cultivated plants. Only ten corporations sell three quarters of the world’s commercial seeds. Half of the vegetables in Europe are grown from Monsanto and Syngenta seeds. Only some 7000 breeding companies provide genetics for all types of food, feed, biofuels, forestry, for all types of agriculture within and outside the EU, and their number is shrinking continuously.

The EU Commission intends to increase these “achievements”. Indeed, the dependency on such agrochemical giants is due to even increase, since in amateur and professional horticulture the number of varieties that can actually be saved is shrinking fast. In addition, obligatory registration –which has no benefit for consumers – hinders the use of rare varieties, so that they are hardly available. Moreover, the registration is limited to historical varieties. “This is particularly short-sighted”, says Susanne Gura of the German umbrella organisation for crop and breed diversity. “Future generations are losing out”. For organic agriculture, the current possibility to register amateur varieties will be closed. The remaining option is to register under the main regular conditions, in particular homogeneity.  It however, disqualifies a major strength of organic varieties: their naturally broad genetic equipment that enables adaptation to varyi ng environments.

In addition, a new industry-friendly principle is introduced, hidden in an annex: Farmers and gardeners are prohibited to sell seeds, if they produce food. This simple rule will be devastating for small enterprises, and it bans all professional farmers from doing what they have done since time immemorial: Save seeds from the harvest and exchange it with others to improve it

Intellectual property rights will be further strengthened: Protected varieties will have automatic access to the market. Patented plants material will enjoy easier market access as “heterogenous reproductive material”.  

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To see the EC’s proposed plant reproductive material regulation click here.