Production and marketing of plant reproductive material

In “A European Green Deal”

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Seeds are central to achieving a more sustainable, productive and diversified EU agriculture in supporting the EU objective to become the first climate-neutral continent.

In its work programme for 2022, the Commission announced its intention to revise the plant and forest reproductive material legislation to align it with the political objectives of the European Green Deal and its 'farm to fork', biodiversity, EU climate adaptation, European digital and new EU forest strategies.

The proposal on the production and marketing of plant reproductive material was finally tabled on 5 July 2023.

Plant reproductive material (PRM) is plant material (for example seeds, cuttings, trees, roots, tubers, etc.) used for the reproduction of other plants.

Marketing of PRM is currently regulated by ten Council directives, the oldest of them dating back to 1966. Consequently, the revision seeks to:

  • increase clarity and coherence of the legal framework;
  • enable the uptake of new scientific and technical developments and in particular, innovative production processes, bio-molecular techniques and digital solutions;
  • ensure availability of PRM suitable for future challenges;
  • support the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources;
  • harmonise the framework for official controls on PRM;
  • improve coherence of the PRM legislation with the plant health legislation.

The proposed regulation foresees to replace ten marketing directives with a single regulation. It maintains the basic principles of the current legislation that varieties have to be registered and PRM certified before being placed on the market.

Furthermore, the proposed regulation would:

  • allow the registration of conservation varieties based on unofficial tests, knowledge gained from practical experience or other information, instead of official examination of distinctness, uniformity and stability (DUS test);
  • add sustainability criteria to the value for cultivation and use (VCU) tests and expanding them to vegetable and fruit tree varieties, in addition to agricultural species;
  • introduce rules on requirements for organic PRM, in particular concerning uniformity, and allow heterogeneous material to be notified to the competent national authorities without having to comply with the requirements for variety registration;
  • exempt gene banks, organisations and networks from the rules on registration, certification, production, marketing, handling and labelling, but requiring them to keep a register of the PRM that they conserve;
  • allow farmers to exchange in kind small quantities of seed produced on their farm and derived from their own harvest, to use it for dynamic seed management;
  • provide more choice for amateur gardeners by lighter rules on market access.

In the European Parliament, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) has decided to treat this proposal and the proposal on forest reproductive material as a package,  with Herbert Dorfmann (EPP, Italy) as rapporteur. The Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) is an associated committee with some shared and some exclusive competencies. 

On 10 November 2023, the rapporteur put forward his draft report. The AGRI committee adopted its report on 19 March 2024, which suggests several changes, including:

  • the regulation would not apply to PRM sold or transferred for on-farm research and activities of gene banks, or to small quantities of PRM for dynamic conservation. It would also not apply to PRM produced by farmers for their own use. The definition of 'marketing' would be changed, so that the regulation would apply only to the 'commercial' actions by professional operators 'aimed at the commercial exploitation of the PRM'. It would also specifically apply to online sale;
  • farmers would be allowed to exchange a limited quantity of any type of PRM, not only seeds. This would not be limited to the exchange in kind - monetary compensation would also be allowed. The maximum quantities allowed for such exchange would not be defined by the national competent authorities, but by the delegated acts adopted by the Commission for each species;
  • the value for sustainable cultivation and use (VSCU) would remain mandatory only for agricultural crops. The VSCU tests would be voluntary for vegetable and fruit species and could be carried out by professional operators under official supervision;
  • rules on conservation activities would be clarified. They would apply to ‘dynamic conservation’, in farms, gardens or outside of the varieties’ natural habitats and organisations and networks, including farmers, dedicated to dynamic conservation would be able to exchange them as long as it is not-for-profit. They would also be able to market them to final consumers or for farming purposes;
  • some requirements would not apply to microenterprises.

        Parliament voted on the report and adopted it as its first-reading position on 24 April. 

        Meanwhile, work on the file continues in the Council's Working Party on Genetic Resources and Innovation in Agriculture. On 18 June 2024, the Belgian Presidency published a note on the state of play highlighting the main issues discussed in the Council.

        References:

        Further reading:

        Author: Nikolina Šajn, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

        As of 20/06/2024.