Seed that can be saved is disappearing from the market

EU Commission struggles with huge public opposition

Link to petition:

 Bonn, Germany, 6 May 2013 - In Brussels, the EU Commission presented today the draft regulation package on animal and plant health, one of the most important regulations of the past decade. In order to avoid it becoming a topic of the 2014 election campaign, the Commission is trying to push the industry-friendly regulation through the last bit of the current parliamentary period.

In the package is also a reform of the contested seed marketing law, which has contributed with its strict market admission rules to both a worryingly high concentration of corporate power and loss of genetic diversity of cultivated plants. Only ten corporations sell three quarters of the world’s commercial seeds. Half of the vegetables in Europe are grown from Monsanto and Syngenta seeds. Only some 7000 breeding companies provide genetics for all types of food, feed, biofuels, forestry, for all types of agriculture within and outside the EU, and their number is shrinking continuously.

 The EU Commission intends to increase these “achievements”. Indeed, the dependency on such agrochemical giants is due to even increase, since in amateur and professional horticulture the number of varieties that can actually be saved is shrinking fast. In addition, obligatory registration –which has no benefit for consumers - hinders the use of rare varieties, so that they are hardly available. Moreover, the registration is limited to historical varieties. “This is particularly short-sighted”, says Susanne Gura of the German umbrella organisation for crop and breed diversity. “Future generations are losing out”.  For organic agriculture, the current possibility to register amateur varieties will be closed. The remaining option is to register under the main regular conditions, in particular homogeneity.  It however, disqualifies a major strength of organic varieties: their naturally broad genetic equipment that enables adaptation to varying environments.

In addition, a new industry-friendly principle is introduced, hidden in an annex: Farmers and gardeners are prohibited to sell seeds, if they produce food. This simple rule will be devastating for small enterprises, and it bans all professional farmers from doing what they have done since time immemorial: Save seeds from the harvest and exchange it with others to improve it

Intellectual property rights will be further strengthened: Protected varieties will have automatic access to the market. Patented plants material will enjoy easier market access as „heterogenous reproductive material“.

The suspicion arises that the Brussel seed lobby, led by Bayer, BASF, Monsanto and Syngenta, are trying to stop competition from the start. The responsible commissioner Tonio Borg, however, finds his proposal well balanced. Massive protests all over Europe have provoked defensive reactions from him and the German minister Aigner. Europe’s citizens don’t want to be forced to depend on corporate seeds.

The derogations that are now put forward in brilliant words, when looked at in detail, turn out to be new bureaucratic hurdles.  The EU Commission has last minute introduced a variety registration exemption for small enterprises and private persons. But they have to record and report all amounts produced and sold. Also for each plant species it is necessary to follow the commission’s publications to find out details that the Commission has left at its future discretion. For rare varieties, any bureaucratic hurdle in practice works like a ban.

Plants for colourful tomatoes are sold these days in German garden centers. But that is mock diversity. These are hybrid varieties, partly from Monsanto, nowadays hidden in traditional brands from apparently independent seed trading companies. Even the label as hybrid seed will be deleted, so that hobby gardeners are left in the dark regarding seed saving options, following the Commission’s proposal. Now the gardeners and farmers, consumers and citizens demand that Parliament and Council to take action and fundamentally change the contested legislation.

Link to the proposal:

Link to the petition (available in many languages): 




Contact: Susanne Gura, T: 0228-9480670 or 01776691400,

Umbrella organisation for crop and livestock diversity -Dachverband Kulturpflanzen- und Nutztiervielfalt e.V.

Seed savers’ association VEN - Verein zur Erhaltung der Nutzpflanzenvielfalt e.V.