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 and forest genetic resources;
  • harmonise the framework for official controls on PRM;
  • improve coherence of the PRM legislation with the plant health legislation.

The proposal regulation foresees to replace ten marketing directives with a single regulation. The proposed regulation 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 is expected to:

  • increase the diversity of PRM on the market and of cultivated crops in the fields by offering a larger choice to all types of farmers and other (e.g. amateur gardeners) and facilitates the conservation of this diverse PRM. This increase in cultivated agro-biodiversity is achieved through simplified rules for conservation varieties and heterogeneous material and specific derogations for seed conservation networks and exchange in kind of seed between farmers;
  • support organic production by adapted rules for testing of organic varieties;
  • 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, the rapporteur put forward his draft report, which broadly agrees with the Commission proposal, but suggests several changes, including:

  • clarifying the definition of 'marketing' to refer to the 'commercial' actions by professional operators;
  • providing more flexibility for the competent authorities to conduct audits of commercial operators for the purposes of certification under official supervision, by requiring the audits to be conducted every 18, instead of every 12 months;
  • allowing farmers to exchange a limited quantity of any type of PRM, not only seeds. This would not be limited to the exchange in kind (i.e. the small quantities of the PRM could also be sold). The allowed quantity of PRM that could be exchanged would not be defined by the national competent authorities, but by the delegated acts adopted by the Commission for each species;
  • a number of technical amendments: the PRM of species that are normally under the scope of the regulation, but are exclusively used for ornamental or forestry purpose would be excluded from the scope; fruit plants would be included in the definition of clones; while the open pollinated out-crossing species and fodder plants would be excluded from the definition and rules for the heterogeneous material.

The AGRI committee adopted its report on 19 March 2024. According to the press release, the requirements for the production of plant reproductive material would apply not only to marketing but also to imports to the EU; farmers would be allowed to exchange between each other a limited quantity of any type of PRM (not only seeds), with the allowed quantity set by the Commission for each species; and the access to, sale and transfer of conservation varieties in small quantities would be exempted from the rules.

In the Council, the work has started in the Working Party on Genetic Resources and Innovation in Agriculture. In December 2023, the Spanish Presidency published a progress report and a presidency text that takes into account the comments provided by delegations on the articles discussed until that moment.

References:

Further reading:

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

As of 20/03/2024.