ARCHE NOAH on EU Seed Study: Right to Seeds must be honoured

DG SANTE publishes study on options to revise the legislation governing the production and marketing of seeds and other plant propagating material

On April 29th DG SANTE published a study on options to update the seed marketing legislation. The study marks the start of a new attempt to revise the 12 directives governing the production and marketing of seeds and other plant propagating material in the Union, after the European Parliament voted down the Commission’s proposal for a new EU seed marketing regulation in 2014.

The seed marketing legislation favours highly uniform, industrial crops, at the expense of the diversity of varieties and species in fields, gardens, and our diets”, states Katherine Dolan, Head of Policy at ARCHE NOAH, an association for the conservation and development of the diversity of cultivated plants, based in Austria. “There are very good reasons to free diversity from its bureaucratic chains. The genetic diversity of our cultivated plants enables us to farm in an environmentally- and climate-friendly way, enjoy healthy diets, and create new revenue opportunities.”.

The seed marketing reform


The study on the seed marketing legislation was requested by the Agriculture Council in November 2019, alongside the study on the new techniques of genetic engineering, which was also published today. “We welcome that the Commission acknowledges that the legislation does not support the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources”, says Katherine Dolan of ARCHE NOAH. “However, we are alarmed that the Commission puts forward the option of regulating the exchange of seed between farmers as seed marketing. The right of peasants to use, exchange and sell seeds is anchored in international law”, warns Dolan.

The Commission presents three possible options. The third option, of a substantial reworking of the directives, includes two variations – one of which would significantly extend the scope of the restrictive rules on the production and marketing of seeds. Prior to the study’s publication, ARCHE NOAH and 35 other seed and farming organisations from 20 countries sent a joint letter to the European Commission.


The letter highlights the invaluable role of informal seed systems – the development, production and transfer of seeds between farmers and gardeners – in the conservation and distribution of cultivated plant diversity, as well as the key role of local seed production in enabling a transition to a more environmentally-friendly and resilient food system, in line with the European Green Deal and the newFarm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies. The organisations also call for the full implementation of the right to seeds, anchored in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People

Working in Rural Areas, adopted in 2018. “We wish to see an end to the discrimination of local seed production and genetic diversity” concludes Katherine Dolan.

Background: In March 2014 the European Parliament rejected the Commission’s proposal for a new seed marketing regulation. The proposal was formally withdrawn by the European Commission in February 2015. Based on ARCHE NOAH’s analysis, the proposal would have reinforced the industrial standard for seeds, and so further threatened biodiversity and the right of farmers and gardeners to use, exchange and sell seeds.

Across Europe 900,000 people signed petitions opposing the seed marketing regulation. In Austria alone, the home of ARCHE NOAH, more than 500,000 people raised their voices against standardised uniformity, and spoke up loud for “freedom for diversity to save rare peasant seeds and plant varieties”.

Link to DG SANTE Study:
https://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/plant_propagation_material/legislation/future-eu-rules_en
Link to joint letter to DG SANTE of seed and farming organisations:
https://www.arche-noah.at/files/joint_letter_to_the_europaen_commision.pdf

Contact: Katherine Dolan
ARCHE NOAH, Head of Policy
Tel.: +43 (0)676 557 4408
E-Mail: katherine.dolan@arche-noah.at

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