On Tuesday, 11 March, there was a vote in the EU Parliament, the first of only 2 so-called ‘readings’, on whether to return the current seed law legislative proposal to the EU Commission. This vote passed, meaning it will ultimately be returned to the Commission.
The seed industry is also claiming success! They pointed out the vote was procedurally flawed, meaning it’s not valid.
The reality is that regardless of if the vote was procedurally flawed, it’s a political decision of the Parliament. In order for the legislation to be passed, the Parliament and Council both have to agree, and the Council is now unlikely to continue working on the proposal knowing it’s virtually impossible for the Parliament to now agree.
If after the elections the Parliament begins working on the proposal, they now only have one more vote (‘reading’) remaining to pass it, and this is all but impossible to achieve.
The widely shared view among NGOs in Europe now, is that it’s politically dead, and can’t come back to life. Even though it may technically remain in the Parliament and Council for some time, it will ultimately end up back at the Commission for redrafting. Now what we hope is that this time they will start from the beginning with a proposal that takes into account the wishes and needs of consumers and the environment and not just industry!
I’ve had lots of questions about the status of the pending EU seed law, and there’s a lot of misinformation circulating, so let me try to put it into some perspective.
The proposal was made by the EU Commission last May, and since then it’s been in the EU Parliament and EU Council. What happens in the Council is not always very transparent, and it may be they have not been very active with it. In any case, I’m not sure about the Council.
In the Parliament, it has been in two committees with a sort of joint competency; the environment committee (ENVI) and the agriculture committee (AGRI). Some 1600 or so amendments have been submitted while in these committees, making it clear there’s a lot of opposition and disagreement. Both committees have now passed resolutions calling for the measure to be rejected, and sent back to the Commission for redrafting. The ENVI committee did this at the end of January, and the AGRI committee last Tuesday. These resolutions are only advisory however, and now there will be a plenary vote in the main floor of the Parliament. The Council would also have to agree for it to be returned to the Commission.
In the plenary, the resolutions calling for rejection can changed and amended. The seed industry is lobbying hard to keep the current proposal, with only some minor changes. I guess almost anything can happen in this vote.
In addition, while the tentative date for this vote is now 12 March, this is an indicative date, and delays are certainly possible, if not probable.
There is also the possibility the EU Commission could voluntarily withdraw the proposal, but this is not considered likely.
EU Parliament elections are in May. Not only will we likely have different MEPs, who may be less friendly to our side of the argument, but after fresh elections they may be less receptive to public opinion. The chance is very good the current Parliament will find reasons to delay this measure until after the elections, so that it can be considered again by the new Parliament.
If it is considered by the new Parliament, they may decide to return the same proposal back to committee, and start the whole process all over again.
Return to the Commission ASAP
While the seed industry thinks the proposal can be fixed with a few small changes, this is not the position of most seed related NGOs around Europe. It is certainly not our position. The current proposal is not without some good aspects, but overall it’s seriously flawed and should be rewritten.
The best option now is for it to be returned to the Commission as soon as possible. There is also the uncertainty where this measure rests with the EU Council, and if it were returned to the Commission, the Council would stop working on it. The Council is not thought to be friendly towards issues of biodiversity.
If it is returned to the Commission for redrafting, this is expected to be completed by 2016, and then the whole process will start over again, but hopefully with a better proposal to work with.
A new plant breeding forum has started in Europe. This is intended to be a European version of the Homegrown Goodness forum in the US. Are you interested in plant breeding and seed saving from a European perspective? Stop by, register and introduce yourself!
Organic plant breeding and seed production as well as the preservation of agro biodiversity are very important topics for agriculture and especially for organic farming. In Western Europe, organic plant breeding as well as production of seeds under organic conditions has started already more than 20 years ago and interesting cooperation models have been realised. In Central and Eastern Europe a strong organic agriculture sector with about 3 million ha of organic area has developed but only a few initiatives work in organic breeding and organic seed production. On the other hand, many old crop varieties still can be found, which without utilization concepts are threatened to be lost.
In order to improve the situation of organic seed supply in CEE as well as to support initiatives of organic breeding and maintenance of crop biodiversity in all Europe the */EkoSeedForum — International Conference on Organic Seeds, Organic Plant Breeding and Crop Biodiversity/* will be organized in Poland next year. With this e-mail we kindly invite you to this event on the *20 to 22 March 2014 at the University of Life Science in Poznan*.
The EkoSeedForum conference will be conducted in English, Polish and German language (and Russian if necessary). Parallel to the conference, participants can show their work at presentation tables and in a poster session. The Forum will give a great opportunity to see the activities of colleagues from East and West, to learn from each other and to develop future cooperation. EkoSeedForum is organized by EkoConnect e.V. in cooperation with University of Life Sciences in Poland and the partners IFOAM EU Group (Belgium), ECO-PB (Switzerland), Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft (Germany), Association for Old Varieties and Breeds (Poland), Kultursaat e. V. (Germany), Association Forum of Organic Agriculture named Mieczyslaw Górny (Poland), Bingenheimer Saatgut AG (Germany), SAVE Foundation (Switzerland), Agrolink (Bulgaria) and Seed Guardians (Slovenia).
The registration to the event is now open until the 25th February 2014.
More information and registration at http://www.ekoconnect.org/en/ekoseedforum.html
Please note: EkoConnect e. V. is organizing besides the EkoSeedForum in Poznan a /second event in Poland:/ the second one is the Organic Marketing Forum in Warsaw on the 1 and 2 of June 2014 www.organic-marketing-forum.org. You are cordially invited to both.
With kind regards,
In the name of all project partners,
Bernhard Jansen; Anna Tarnowska
Chairman EkoConnect Project Manager
P.S. Maybe you know partners who are especially interested in breeding, seeds or biodiversity. It would be nice if you forwarded this invitation to them. Thank you.
Since the BBC was so rude as to delete my comment on this article, I’ll include it here:
You have this story completely wrong.
The GM tomatoes from a snapdragon gene are BLUE not purple. Purple tomatoes, sometimes called black or brown, are like your picture. BLUE tomatoes are something different and new, and are … BLUE.
There are also a number of non-GM versions of the BLUE tomato. For example here:
I might add the picture in this article is probably also wrong.
There’s no reason to eat GM foods, if you want the nutritional value of blue tomatoes. You do however have to grow them yourself, because they aren’t available commercially!