ALL ABOUT THE NEW EU SEED LAW
Well, what a hectic fortnight. Everyone we know has been lobbying hard, and thanks to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been emailing and writing about this, there were some important last-minute changes to the proposed law.
While it is still a terrible law, it is less bad than the earlier drafts. This is only because so much pressure was brought to bear on them! We must remain vigilant, and fight for improvements to the law as it goes through the EU, and then is translated into UK laws. For now, here is a summary of the current situation. The law itself is linked at the bottom.
|WHAT IS THIS LAW?On Monday May 6th a draconian new law was put before the European Commission, which creates new powers to classify and regulate all plant life anywhere in Europe. |
The “Plant Reproductive Material Law” regulates all plants. It contains immediate restrictions on vegetables and woodland trees. (It also creates powers that can be used to restrict any other plants in the future, but the details of how this will work are left for later.)
Under the new law, it will immediately be illegal to grow, reproduce or trade any vegetable seed or tree that has not been tested and approved by a new “EU Plant Variety Agency”, who will make a list of approved plants. Moreover, an annual fee must also be paid to the Agency to keep them on the list, and if not paid, they cannot be produced.
WHY IS THERE A NEW LAW?
Officially, it is to simplify and bring up to date lots of old laws , and ‘increase consumer protection’.
In reality, it seems to be mostly about the globalised agribusiness seed industry needing new laws to cope with gene patents and plant patents, and to be able to register ‘their’ industrial varieties or genes safely and securely before selling them in large quantities to industrial farmers, who might otherwise save the seed and sell it or use it themselves without paying a royalty fee.
The needs of the millions of people who grow normal vegetables on a normal scale have been overlooked.
THERE WAS A FUSS ABOUT THIS- WHAT HAPPENED?
The early drafts of the law were badly written. They really did imply that people couldn’t even swap their own saved seeds with their neighbours for free. (This may have been simply poor wording, or deliberate, it was not clear which.) And subsequent drafts got more restrictive, not less.
Following a huge outcry and intense lobbying from consumer groups, small-scale farmers, genebanks, and even some member-state governements, some last-minute changes were made, which have reduced the impact slightly. It is still a bad law, just not as bad as they initally proposed.
WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?
The law starts from the premise that all vegetables, fruit and trees must be officially registered before they can be reproduced or distributed. This obviously is a major restriction on seed availability, as there are all sorts of costs in both time and money dealing with the bureaucracy of a central Plant Variety Agency. Then, after making that the basic rule, there are some exceptions made in limited cases:
SURELY THIS IS OK THEN?
1) SIGN THE PETITION(S)
There are several petitions organised for this. The biggest is the Arche Noah petition which you should sign here. 200000 signatures so far!
Another one is the English-language version of the Seed Sovereignty petition (there is one for each EU language, so the total numbers are lower for each.)
Please sign both and share these links.