Europe stomps on biodiversity source

People outside the European Union (and many within it) are often surprised by the draconian regime surrounding seeds. Essentially, only registered varieties can be sold, and it costs the same to register some piffling little variety of interest only to a handful of gardeners as to register a new megavariety that will cloak the majority of farmers’ fields. The Common Catalogue, as it is known, has probably extinguished more local varieties than anything else. Some stalwarts have fought the legislation by simply ignoring it. (Full disclosure: I was once one of them.) But now a French Court has dumped a fine of €17,130 on the Kokopelli Association (also in English), for placing unregistered varieties on the market. That could easily put an end to the Association, and perhaps the more than 2000 varieties that it maintains and makes available to gardeners. Is that really what the EU, with all its lip service to biodiversity, wants? I think it is.

Kokopelli’s press release is here.

10 Replies to “Europe stomps on biodiversity source”

  1. Ugh. I had not heard of this. American progressives (self included) like to think that the EU is less in the pocket of the big corporations than the US government, though this is probably a conceit.

    I’d be curious to hear your analysis. Is this just the EU caving to pressure from Big Ag, or is there more to this? If the former, what’s their rationale?

  2. Alas, it isn’t so much the the EU is caving in to pressure from Big Ag as that they seem to think that one size fits all. The US allows enterprise to thrive. If you choose to buy unregistered seeds, that’s your problem. The EU sets out to “protect” growers from the “folly” of wanting to grow unregistered varieties.

    Given the interest, I’m going to dust off some earlier analyses and post them here in a day or two.

    1. Couldn’t resist picking up on Jesse’s comment – I like the “if” but I suspect that is wishful thinking. So Jesse asks ‘Will the UK keep the system themselves?’ Well, shortly I don’t think there will be anyone in DEFRA who understands the system, so could be that ignorance is bliss!

  3. The newest EU rule will be discussed February 2007: a Directive “providing for certain derogations for acceptance of agricultural landraces and varieties which are naturally adapted to the local and regional conditions and threatened by genetic erosion and for marketing of seed and seed potatoes of those landraces and varieties”

    How is this proposed? By applying breeder’s standards, i.e. UPOV DUS criteria of Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability.

    Landraces are going to be 90% uniform in the EU.
    Seed production of these landraces will not exceed 20 hectares.
    Memberstates shall ensure that seed is verified on varietal identity and varietal purity.

  4. Thanks for that. I knew something was in the works, and I’ll keep an eye open for reports of those discussion. This is the meeting on 26-27 february? I don’t think there is a draft that has emerged from the Standing Committee on Seeds yet, is there?

  5. There seems to have been a problem with comment submission. Has anyone else noticed? Anyway, Franz Konig had this to contribute:

    The most recent working document on the EU directive on agricultural conservation varieties and landraces is dated 17/01/2007.

    Some highlights:
    Article 4: Substantive Requirements:

    2. By way of derogation from Article 1(2) of Commission Directive 2003/90/EC, Member States may adopt their own rules as regards distinctiveness, stability and uniformity.

    However, when Member States adopt such rules, they shall ensure that for the assessment of distinctivenss and stability at least the characteristics marked by an asterisk in the UPOV guidelines referred to in that provision are used.

    For the assessment of the uniformity level established on the basis of off-types, a population standard of 10% and an acceptance probability of at least 90% shall be applied.

    Article 10 Derogation from certification

    3. The seed except Oryza sativa shall comply with the requirements for certification of certified seed provided for in Directive 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC. 2002/54/EC. 2002/56/EC and 2002/57/EC with the exception of the requirements in respect of minimum varietal purity and the requirements concerning official examination or examination under official supervision.


    The seed shall have sufficient varietal purity.

    Article 13: seed testing

    2. For the (seed) tests …Member States shall ensure that samples are drawn fom homogeneous lots.

    Article 19

    Member States shall ensure that seed is subject to official post control by random inspections to verify its varietal identity and varietal purity.

  6. If/when Brexit is complete, is it likely that the UK will keep this system themselves, or reject it along with EU membership? Whatever happens, it could set some interesting precedent.

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