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On the Silvestris Report : Press Release from ECVC

25 November 2013

Will the European Parliament close the few openings the Commission left in favor of farmers seeds and biodiversity ?

In its report on the new “seed marketing” regulation, deputy Sergio Silvestris proposes to the European Parliament to reinforce all measures that give a handful of multinational corporations total control of the seed market.

Enclosing biodiversity and farmers rights within more and more narrowly defined bureaucratic niches, strengthening the process whereby seeds are being confiscated by industrial property rights

If the parliament follows the recommendations of the Silvestris report, all farmers who produce seeds for their own crops, i.e. not to be put on the market, will have to declare this activity to the administration and will have to maintain and keep available detailed records of all seed exchanges with colleagues. Those who produce farm-saved seeds will have to comply with the obligations imposed on commercial seed production, which will make production too expensive, or even impossible for most crops. The industry will have access to the administrative list of farm-saved seed producers1. It may well impose the payment of royalties, or pursue for infringement any person who reproduces seeds from a variety protected by a Plant Breeder Right, which is to say almost all of the commercial offer.

While the Commission proposes allowing micro-enterprises to market seeds from varieties not included in the catalog, the Silvestris report wants to restore mandatory registration of all varieties in the catalog . This requirement would eliminate hundreds of thousands of available varieties that cannot comply with the standards and the bureaucratic and financial obligations entailed by the catalog. Today more than ever, farmers and gardeners need access to all this diversity, in order to do away with chemical inputs, adapt to climate change and provide tasty, healthy, high quality and nutritious food.

In response to the legitimate demands of organic and peasant farmers who cannot work only with seeds conforming to the catalog standards, the Commission has seized the occasion to propose opening the market to certain “heterogeneous material”, which can therefore be patented. The Silvestris report does not refuse these patented seeds, which will generalize genetic contamination and the ownership of all commercial or farmers seeds which are today still free of intellectual property rights.

Finally, the report proposes to limit to one year the period of emergency measures necessary to forbid seeds that generate significant health or environmental risk even though experience regularly shows that much more than a year is necessary to present indisputable scientific evidence of risk, a fact which is widely recognized.

Strengthening multinational corporation control over the seed market

The report wants to remove the exemption of payment for the registration fee by micro-enterprises proposed by the Commission, whereas this exemption would facilitate the necessary return of greater diversity in the market and in the fields. On the contrary, it maintains this possibility only for large companies who can afford to replace the tests for registration and official public controls by a simple validation of their own tests and internal controls. Such self-control under official supervision encourages widespread fraud as shown, among many others, by the recent scandal of horse meat being sold as beef.

Therefore ECVC calls on the MEP:

– To strengthen the rights of farmers to use, exchange and sell their seeds to protect them from genetic contamination and biopiracy, and to provide full access to all freely reproducible seeds

– To maintain and improve the openings of the European Commission’s proposals that go in this direction,

– To reject the widespread trade of patented and genetically engineered seeds,

– To reject the privatization of market control for the sole benefit of multinationals, and instead implement fully transparent proportionate public control, open to participatory collective guarantee systems , not to internal controls whose confidentiality feeds the spreading of fraudulent activities.