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New EU Seed Law

(The "Plant Reproductive Material Law" )


General Explanation Of What It's All About

On Monday May the 6th 3013 a draconian new law was put before the European Commission, which creates new powers to classify and regulate all plant life anywhere in Europe.

The "Plant Reproductive Material Law" regulates all plants. 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. [A list that currently is 60% dominated by big corporations like Monsanto, AstraZeneca, Bayer and others]. Moreover, an annual fee must also be paid to the Agency to keep them on the list, and if not paid, they cannot be produced.

This [law] seems to be mostly about the globalised agribusiness seed industry needing new laws to cope with gene patents and plant patents, and to be able to register 'their' industrial varieties or genes safely and securely before selling them in large quantities to industrial farmers, who might otherwise save the seed and sell it or use it themselves without paying a royalty fee.

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 at all to seed used by home gardeners and small market growers, who have very different needs.

Freely reproducible seeds are an inalienable part of our heritage. Listing and official certification of vegetable seeds might be helpful for industrial-scale farmers, but it should be a voluntary scheme that people can choose to use if they need it.

So we are calling for registration and testing to be voluntary for all non-GMO, non-patented, non-hybrid seed. That would fix all the problems with the law, while still allowing the giant agri-companies to protect their business the way they want.

As allotment cultivators and amateur gardeners we wish to preserve our right to:

  • Grow varieties of plant crops of our own choice.

  • Be allowed to legally save and share the seeds that we want to collect and continue to grow in the future.

  • Be allowed to maintain heritage varieties that have been bred for centuries and will - if this legislation is allowed to go through -  be lost forever

  • Be independent of the regulations proposed which will allow large global seed companies to dictate which varieties we can grow

  • Be allowed to be free of any commercial aspects associated with large seed companies if we so wish.

  • The freedom to grow all and any plants or crops we choose - as long as they are used for legal purposes

  • Preserve biodiversity and genetic diversity for the future well-being of our planet

If you agree with the above, then read on. It is only by making known our concerns as individuals that we can have an effect that will challenge the power of the seed companies lobby which is influencing this decision in the European Parliament - in order to bulldoze through legislation that will promote their wealth and control, at the expense of the future of all food crops

What Can YOU Do?

Firstly, please familiarise yourself with the issue by downloading or opening the following documents that have been prepared for you:

Bad Law

Regulation on Marketing of Plant Reproductive Material , A New Seed Law went before the EU commissioners on May 6th 2013. To get more background information click on the 'Goto Webpage' icon on the right

Read the actual proposal prepared for the EU Commission (it's pretty heavy going, but it's here if you're curious or a legislation anorak!). PDF file.

All about the new EU Seed Law.

A copy of the Real Seed company's webpage that's dedicated to this subject. PDF file.

Using a chainsaw to crack a nut.

A copy of an article written by Ben Raskin of the Soil Association. PDF file.


The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on the Agriculture and Environment committee who are directly involved with the law are listed on this page. There is also a draft of the wording that you can copy and paste for your letter to send to the nearest MEP to where you live. Click on the 'Goto Webpage' icon on the right


Protect and promote seed diversity!

The proposed EU seed legislation must allow more diversity in our fields and on our plates, rather than destroying it. Traditional and local varieties must remain exempt from licensing or certification requirements. Strict rules, controls, inspections and costly permits should only apply to seeds and seed materials which are traded commercially, in large quantities. The free exchange of seeds and seedlings between farmers, gardeners and seed initiatives must be guaranteed and supported. Only by growing a wide selection of fruits, vegetables and grains, can we ensure that our agriculture adapts to climate change, new diseases and pests. We want colorful variety not standardized uniformity!

We, the people, demand protection of our seed from all corporations and unjust laws that prohibit us form saving and sharing seed.


SAVE OUR SEEDS (Seven Point Plan)

Garden Organic and allies have issued a seven step Save Our Seeds plan and a call to "turn back the tide" over the latest amendements to damaging EU proposals on plant reproductive material.

The call from the alliance of concerned UK organisations which includes UK NGOs, small seed producers, plant breeders and trade associations, comes in response to a draft report issued by the EU’s chief rapporteur for agriculture, Sergio Sylvestris.

In the report, Italian MEP Sylvestris seeks to repeal many of the exemptions for amateur growers and small producers that had been won in the original Regulation on Marketing of Plant Reproductive Material (PRM) draft directive, issued in May.

The new recommendations include exemptions only for statutory gene banks – only two exist in the UK – and not the living gene banks with community networks of growers such as Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library (HSL). 

Exemptions for smaller seed growers are also being removed as are exemptions for open pollinated niche market varieties developed after the directive – a move that threatens future plant breeding and biodiversity.

In response, a seven point Save Our Seeds Plan has been launched outlining what needs to be included in the new draft directive. The group has also consulted with DEFRA on the plans, launched a letter campaign targeted at MEPs, and a Save Our Seeds social media campaign aimed at the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development  (DG AGRI) and Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENVI), Chief and Shadow Rapporteurs.

Garden Organic development director Brett Willers said: "The new proposals being suggested in Mr Sivelstris’s report are very concerning and raise key issues. They include adverse effects on small businesses specialising in producing niche market varieties who will not be able to afford the costly licensing fees and as a result could go out of business.
He added: "There is also the anti-competitive nature of these proposals as they make it more difficult for imports of plant material into the EU and risk similar restrictions being imposed upon EU growers exporting outside of the EU. Farmers, growers and the consumer will also be faced with limited choice as a large number of varieties are eliminated from potential future production.

"Food security will be threatened with less genetic variation available for future plant breeding and a loss of  biodiversity as costly registration procedures and exemptions limited to statutory seed banks restrict the development of new varieties. We therefore urge the EU Rapporteurs to ‘turn back the tide’ on these new proposals and implement the right decisions when formulating the new directive."

The Save Our Seeds Plan outlines seven key asks to be implemented as part of the  Regulation on Marketing of Plant Reproductive Material (PRM) directive. The seven 'asks' are:

The Regulation on Marketing of Plant Reproductive Material (PRM) only be applied to major food crops and the agricultural market. It should not apply to the activities of gardeners, those in amenity horticulture, wildlife conservation or smallholder and allotment growers.

Recognise the value and importance of living seed banks like the Heritage Seed Library (HSL) and seed exchange networks by exempting them from the regulations. This enable heritage and niche plant varieties to adapt to change over time and thus ensure they remain viable in the future.

Not limit exemption from the DUS ruling to open pollinated varieties developed before the Directive comes into effect. Instead it should allow commercial activities to continue in the further development of open pollinated varieties for niche markets, as this will enhance biodiversity and food security.

Reconsider the requirement for DUS testing as many plants especially ornamentals and a number of vegetables do not conform to distinct characterisations.

Apply restrictions to the marketing and sale of seeds and plant reproductive materials only where large quantities are sold above a certain level for large-scale horticultural and agricultural use. All seed companies regardless of their company size (employee and turnover) should be exempt from the regulations if selling plants material that is destined for use to either:

  1. cover a limited area or

  2. have a packet size below a certain number or weight.

If the larger seed companies were concerned about the smaller companies having exemptions      from licensing and registration (note the removal of the exemption for companies with ten employees or less than 2m Euro turnover) this approach would satisfy their concerns.

Not restrict the development of exempted varieties of plants to their locality of origin but allow for their use in developing new acclimatised plants elsewhere e.g. the Latvian Pea although originating from Latvia has a UK variety that has become acclimatised to our conditions in the UK over time and is different from the original Latvian Pea.

Not be anti competitive. As it stands at the moment it would restrict the movement of plant material into and out of the EU resulting in likely restrictions coming into effect in other trading block areas as retaliation to the EU Directive

A declaration has been signed by 20 European organisations as part of a Pan-European co-ordinated campaign lobby aimed at securing the important amendments and exemptions for new Regulation on Marketing of Plant Reproductive Material (PRM) seed regulations.