The EU Parliament on 10 March voted down the EU Commission’s plant reproduction material law, in what some claim is a victory for home gardeners and biodiversity. But is it really?
The EU Commission had proposed the new law (the ‘Production and making available on the market of plant reproductive material (plant reproductive material law)‘) to regulate plant propagating material like seeds for sale throughout Europe by requiring them to all be properly classified and named – something that should protect consumers.
Vigorous lobbying of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) by home gardeners and nurserymen, frightened that the new, simplified laws would regulate them out of being able to trade a wide variety of plants saw the Commission’s proposal rejected outright, rather than the EP working through proposed amendments to the law.
Legislatively, this seems to be not only a phyrrhic victory but an an unfortunate outcome. As the EU Commission has refused to withdraw the proposed law or amend its text, when it is presented to the EP for its second reading, it is more likely that it will pass unamended. Critics of the ‘no’ vote say that the EP did not do the hard work it should have by working through the all proposed amendments to get something to which all 28 member states would agree.
Despite the EU paper addressing many of the concerns about how the new legislation could affect amateur breeders and micro-businesses, including:
“micro-enterprises will be released from the obligation to pay any fees for the registration of their varieties, or for the issuance of official labels for certification. Moreover, micro-enterprises may market niche market material without the obligation to register the concerned plant material.”
(where a micro-enterprise is one employing 10 people of less) many gardening associations have vehemently opposed the legislation, claiming that it serves the multi-national seed sellers like Monsanto and imposes restrictions that will endanger National Plant Collections, community seed exchange groups and amateur plant breeders.
It’s hard to remove the general anti-EU rhetoric from most of what’s written online, although there is some well-reasoned analysis at Passion Horticulture and also by Graham Spencer at Plants for Europe. However the current situation would seem to be best summed up by “be careful what you wish for”.