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New regulation on organic seeds: a good opportunity but drawbacks attached

16 May 2018

The European Parliament adopted the new European draft regulation on organic agriculture which, following the Council of Ministers' formal approval, will apply from 1st January 2021.

PRESS RELEASE   Available in PDF   New regulation on organic seeds: a good opportunity but drawbacks attached   The “heterogenous material” and the “organic varieties” are two interesting developments that will increase what seeds adapted to organic, small-scale farming have to offer to the commercial market.   Unfortunately, this organic regulation does not remove all the barriers that prevent farmers from selling their own seeds to other farmers, nor prohibit the filing of patents on the genetic characteristics of "heterogeneous material" or organic varieties.   ****   Brussels, May 16, 2018 - In a plenary session held on 19th of April, the European Parliament adopted the new European draft regulation on organic agriculture which, following the Council of Ministers' formal approval, will apply from 1st January 2021.   ECVC considers this new organic regulation on seeds to be a positive development. The “heterogenous material” and the “organic varieties” are two interesting developments that will increase what seeds adapted to organic, small-scale farming have to offer to the commercial market.   Indeed, any farmer, whether certified organic or not, will be able to buy and cultivate these new seeds. As a result, this will help them to get out of the infernal, expensive cycle of using "improved" varieties, which are dependent on fertilizers and chemical pesticides.   The total or partial abandonment of homogeneity and stability obligations will mean that farmers can finally enjoy intravarietal diversity. The only justification for these obligations was that they could guarantee the seed's intellectual property protection.   This diversity will make farmers' crops more resilient, whatever the ever changing and increasingly unpredictable weather conditions may be. It will also facilitate the crops' rapid adaptation to the farmer’s land  and to her/his farming methods, as far as nothing  prevents farmers from selecting the seeds for the following year's harvest.   Unfortunately, this organic regulation does not remove all the barriers that prevent farmers from selling their own seeds to other farmers.   The obligation to register as a seed producer, and the associated financial, regulatory, bureaucratic and health constraints, are justified and enforceable in the case of any specialised, large-scale seed producer. However, they are not applicable to agricultural production in which the farmer selects his own seeds and occasionally sells the surplus. Indeed, these are the seeds that are most adapted to the soil and local growing conditions and, as a result, neighbours and colleagues are more interested in buying them.   This new organic regulation also does not prohibit the filing of patents on the genetic characteristics of "heterogeneous material" or organic varieties. These patents will prohibit farmers from using, exchanging or selling their own seeds from their harvests.   Moreover, if Europe accepts the industry's requirement to no longer regulate new GMOs, they will not be labelled and will legally comply with the organic regulation. Any genetic manipulation deeply disturbs the plants’ genome. This makes it very difficult to stabilise the plants that survive these manipulations and to homogenise the varieties resulting from their multiplication. Therefore, the heterogeneous material could facilitate the entry of new, hidden, patented and unstabilised GMOs to the European market. This would deceive farmers and consumers, and force them to grow and eat these GMOs without knowing it.   Once adopted definitively, this new regulation will only be applied after the European Commission has published its "delegated acts". ECVC hopes that they will be written in such a way as to prohibit any hidden GMOs and patented seeds.   ECVC also expects the European Union to finally recognise the small-scale farmers' right to sell their own farm-saved seeds to other farmers, without being forced to change jobs and become seed producers.   Contacts:   ·       Guy Kastler – ECVC Seed Group: +33 603945721 (FR)   ·       Antonio Onorati - ECVC Coordinating Committee :  +39 3408219456 (IT, EN, ES, FR)