ISIS Report 05/02/14
New European Seed Legislation: Winners and Losers
urge the EU to establish a political and legal framework that will maintain and
promote diversity in the seed sector Stephan
Doeblin for Demeter
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Commission is drawing up a new law to regulate the sale ofall seeds, plants
and plant material. The reason, it says, is to bring
together and simplify an old set of 12 basic acts,
many dating back to the 1960s and 70s . However, this has brought widespread
concern and unease among farmers, plant breeders, and the general public.
food company Demeter International and its partners organized a conference on the seed
legislation with the support of many NGOs. The conference “Challenges for
producers, consumers and citizens: Who will own the seeds?” took place in
Brussels on 22 January 2014 with more than 120 participants including representatives
of the European institutions, Member State Authorities, farmers’ associations,
breeders, seed savers, university academics, the clergy, and journalists.
the European Commission (Directorate General of Health and Consumers) presented
the details of the draft seed law, and suggested that it offers sufficient new
possibilities for more diversified production. But policy decision-makers and
stakeholders still had reservations.
Häusling (The Greens/EFA) said
that seeds are a public good and hence of public interest. Their regulation
must be further discussed in public, not only in the European Commission, the
European Parliament (EP) and the Council. The Commission’s proposal attempts to
put the seed market in order, but doesn’t really begin to address sustainable
farming and agro-biodiversity. Consequently the present proposal doesn’t fulfil
sufficiently the needs of organic farming. Moreover, the EP was given far too
little time to find a satisfying consensus. He does not favour a hasty reaction
from the EP to push through this important seed legislation before the coming
European Parliament elections in May.
Kölling from the IFOAM-EU-Group outlined
the need for changes in seed legislation, emphasizing that appropriate rules
must apply for varieties that are adapted to organic conditions. Work with
genetic resources by non-professionals must not be regulated, but remain free.
Rossmanith, CEO of the biodynamic breeding company Bingenheimer Saatgut AG in Germany, stated that organic
breeding of open pollinated varieties needs fair access to the market. This
means specially adapted criteria for the registration tests, with the focus on distinctive
aspects of organic farming and the needs of farmers and consumers.
Sultana (Arche Noah, a seed savers’ association from Austria) was concerned about the consequences
of EU policy and legislation on free exchange of seeds and agro-biodiversity.
The Commission’s proposal is very well polished from a first point of view, but
when going into the details, it would further endanger agro-biodiversity in
Europe. A shift from a compulsory system of registration and certification to a
voluntary one is needed and would really offer “better regulation” while
Kastler (Reseau Semences Paysannes, French seed exchange network) commented the current legal and
seed market situation in France and analysed possible advantages and
disadvantages of the proposed European seed law. Some issues, like, for
instance the legal option of free exchange of seeds among farmers and gardeners
would be welcomes, but other parts of the regulation could not be accepted.
Lammerts van Bueren (Wageningen University) gave an overview on the state of the art with regard to
seed research and development. To develop our seeds we need to involve not only
farmers and breeders, but also other stakeholders in the food chain including
citizens. We need to develop plant breeding into farmer-based, ecological, and
citizen based breeding models (i.e. “systems breeding”) as opposed to single
Chable (INRA, France) emphasized
the importance of more participatory research (with farmers and citizens) for
new locally adapted and open pollinating varieties. For achieving this goal it
is necessary to work on the local level in as many places as possible.
a Greek Seed Savers and Exchange Network) pointed out that landraces,
created by farmers, are a very important component of European
agro-biodiversity and are also excellent material for organic farming.
Landraces should have their well-defined and appropriate place in the new seed
and co-founder of the “Commons-Strategies-Group”, presented a new concept “Commons
vs. commodities – a new framework for seed handling”. She said that the current
legal and political framework is based on the idea of seeds as commodities. But
what we really need is legal protection of seeds and breeding as the commons.
Berg (Expert for European Citizens’ Initiatives – ECIs) emphasized the importance of
citizens’ participation. We could only save seeds and biodiversity for the
future, if we succeeded to create much more awareness of citizens and consumers
in this field. Establishing a broad European citizens movement is a matter of
Belay (Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) reported on the threats of African seed law
harmonization for farmers, consumers and food sovereignty in African countries.
He said that the conference in Brussels was helpful in understanding the
European context and to articulate the African case. Africa should not follow
Europe’s way, i.e. that farmers would lose seed sovereignty.
In the final session of the
conference it was concluded that Europe is not at the end of the seed
legislation process, and further engagement of citizens and NGOs representing
civil society is of eminent importance. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) still
has its priority set on competition in agriculture and in the seed market.
Therefore it is very difficult to achieve seed conservation and enhance
agro-biodiversity within the current system. However there is hope for a
paradigm shift, if civil society and more and more consumers will express their
demand for a European agricultural system and practice, in which seed and
cultivated plant diversity is an important basic element.
For more details contact Demeter International: [email protected]; www.demeter.net
Review of EU rules. European Commission, 2 October 2013, http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/plant_propagation_material/review_eu_rules/index_en.htm
There are 4 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
|lynn evans Comment left 5th February 2014 16:04:25|
Natural organic seed use, diversity and exchange of seeds must remain free for all people at all places and times.
Restriction of any kind with the use of organic seeds must be rejected and NOT be replaced by 'Genetically Modified' Seed at any time or place.
Seeds must remain in organic condition for all European people to sell exchange or use for eating and foodstuff and animal foodstuff for as what and when they feel necessary.
EUROPE MUST REJECT ALL 'GENETICALLY MODIFIED' SEED and FOODSTUFF DIRECT or INDIRECT.
ORGANIC DIVERSITY IS OF PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE FOR HEALTHY LIFE FOR PEOPLE, ANIMAL, FLORA AND FAUNA ON THIS PLANET AND MUST NOT BE ALTERED IN ANY WAY OR FORM.
|Rory Short Comment left 5th February 2014 17:05:48|
I like Silke Helfrich's distinction between the concepts of 'commons' and 'commodities', with organic seeds being part of the 'commons'. GMO's were created as commodities and they should remain as such BUT we should not allow their developers to hoodwink us into conflating the regulation that GMO's, being 'commodities' require with the regulation, if any, that organic seeds, being 'commons' require.
|Segundo Asensio Suarez Comment left 6th February 2014 07:07:52|
es inadmisible que existan gmo lo importante es acabar con la corrupcion y lo demas se arregla solo. Los politicos no deberian tener mas decision que su programa electoral. El resto ha de ser solventado entre todos y a fin de lograr el bien comun. Es la corrupcion la base de todos los males y atajando esta infinidad de problemas desaparecian como el rocio al sol
|Subhash Mehta Comment left 26th February 2014 06:06:43|
Congratulations on this excellent initiative and the very useful comments. We need to ensure that similar conferences are held in all the continents to start with followed with in the regions and ultimately in each country as the MNC GMO seed producers are buying out seed cos in most countries and thus farmers will have no other choice but to depend only on their seeds.