EU Urged to Sprout New Regulations for Plant and Forest Seeds!

EU Agriculture Committee MEPs Propose Changes to Plant and Forest Reproductive Material Rules

MEPs on the agriculture committee of the European Parliament have put forward significant changes to the regulations governing plant and forest reproductive material. The European Commission’s proposal to replace current directives with a regulation aims to enhance agro-biodiversity in the EU. The draft law focuses on expanding the variety of plant reproductive material available in the market to combat the decline in biodiversity. Additionally, the proposed regulation for forest reproductive material seeks to boost biodiversity, restore forest ecosystems, and enhance climate adaptation and mitigation.

MEPs endorsed a report on the new rules for plant reproductive material with a vote of 25 in favor, two against, and 17 abstentions. Similarly, the rules for forest reproductive material received approval with 32 votes in favor, one against, and nine abstentions. Plant reproductive material includes seeds, cuttings, trees, roots, and tubers used for propagating other plants. MEPs emphasized that requirements for producing plant reproductive material should not only apply to marketing but also extend to imports into the EU.

The proposed changes would allow farmers to exchange a limited quantity of any type of plant reproductive material, not just seeds as originally suggested. In 2021, the total value of seeds and planting stock utilized in EU agriculture amounted to €13.3 billion, with approximately 2 million hectares of EU land dedicated to certified seed production. MEPs recommend facilitating the marketing of conservation varieties to support the conservation of plant genetic resources. They propose exempting the access to, sale, and transfer of conservation varieties in small quantities from the rules and extending the registration period to 30 years.

Forest reproductive material comprises seeds, plants, and plant parts of tree species used for establishing new forests and other tree planting activities. In the EU, a significant portion of forest stands consists of even-aged trees, with over 80% having three species or fewer, rendering them vulnerable to various threats such as droughts, fires, pests, and diseases. MEPs suggest that member states can seek technical assistance from the commission in formulating contingency plans for ensuring an adequate supply of material for reforesting areas impacted by extreme weather events.

To guarantee a traceable supply chain from collection to marketing, producers will be required to notify national authorities before harvesting to facilitate inspections. MEPs propose empowering professional operators, possessing the necessary expertise, infrastructure, and resources, to issue official labels accompanying forest reproductive material. These labels should include a QR code with instructions on handling, storing, and planting the forest reproductive material, as outlined in the committee’s report.

The reports endorsed by the committee will proceed to a plenary vote, potentially during the April 22-25 session, where they will represent the parliament’s stance in the initial reading. Eric Gall, the deputy director of IFOAM Organics Europe, emphasized the potential of the proposed changes to reintroduce genetic diversity. He stressed the importance of preserving agro-biodiversity and preventing the concentration of plant genetic resources in the hands of a few large entities to ensure the resilience and future of the food system.

Organic breeders and farmers advocate for rules that accommodate plant biodiversity, allowing for a diverse range of seed varieties. Organic farmers require access to plant reproductive material, including seeds and seedlings, specifically bred to thrive under organic conditions. The efforts of organic breeders and seed multipliers play a crucial role in maintaining and promoting agro-biodiversity, ensuring farmers have access to a broad selection of plant reproductive material, according to IFOAM.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

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