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New EU seed marketing Law to ban traditional vegetable varieties

Hello everyone who cares about our seeds and our freedom to use, exchange and sell them.

There is urgent action needed against the upcoming EU seed marketing law. The new regulation will de facto ban old and rare varieties and farmers varieties and stop the exchange and selling of traditional seeds.

DG SANCO (the Directorate General of the EU for Sanitary and Consumer affairs) has been working on a proposal for a new regulation for years, driven by lobbying of the globalised agricultural seed industry .The seed industry is pushing the legislation hard, they’ve spent a lot of money on it.

However, two other EU directorates, DG AGRI (agricultural affairs) and DG ENVI (environmental affairs) both oppose the proposal because it is so bad for agriculture and biodiversity! So DG SANCO is pushing ahead with the new law anyways by putting it directly to the Commission this week.

There is only a little chance to get a majority of commissioners to vote against the current proposal, but we still should try.

Each country of the EU has one commissioner in Brussels, so we need 14 votes against the proposal. The commissioners of DG AGRI and DG ENVI should vote against, so we need 12 more.

Please write to at least the commissioner of your country and convince him/her to vote “NO” on the proposal of DG SANCO on 6th of May.

Try to make a link from his/her department to the seed issue, and try to make clear to him/her that the proposal for a new EU seed legislation will affect the cultural and biodiversity heritage of your country and the freedom of farmers to use the seeds and the varieties they want to.


By forcing registration of all varieties of all crop species , the new law will prohibit old, rare and traditional public-domain farm varieties. This will guarantee huge profits for the seed industry but will be a terrible loss to the people of Europe as our agricultural heritage is outlawed overnight!

Please write to your commissioner in Brussels no later than the 28th. He/she has to make a statement on the proposal from 24th of April on, the sooner, the better. On the 6th of May, we must obtain at least 14 objections, otherwise this proposal will become the official proposal.

For background, here are the objections of the european seed-soverignty movement to this stupid new law:



You can find the members of the EU Commission listed here 

Choose one or more and email them! Each commissioners email will be firstname.lastname@ec.europa.eu

Please ask all or any of them to vote against the new Seed Law when it comes before them on May 6th.

Your email can be very simple. Keep it very short and very polite for most effect. Remember these people are busy running the EU and have not been involved in drafting the law – the situation is not their fault – they just get to vote on it when it is laid before them.


What exactly does this law say that is so bad?

The last draft that we saw says that no seed can be sold or even given for free to anyone anywhere in the EU unless it is registered on the EU Plant List as an ‘approved’ variety.

Why is this bad?

In order to be registered, each variety must be tested to see if it meets various criteria. These critera have been designed around modern hybrid varieties suitable for industrial agriculture, and in general only industrial hybrid seed will pass the tests. Many of the valuable old varieties currently in use by millions of home gardeners and small farmers will be unregisterable, and therefore outlawed.

Worse, it costs money (lots) to apply for listing and testing, and then an annual fee must be paid every year, forever, to keep the variety on the list. If the annual fee is ever not paid, that vegetable variety is no longer legal.

There are two issues with this: Firstly , because the cost is high (certainly thousands of euros for each variety), it is only affordable to register varieties that will sell in large quantities to industrial farmers. So the vegetables suitable for small-scale home garden and market-farmers will be illegal, and die out. Then when we need these varieties in the future – when we have to grow food again without limitless oil and fertilisers – we will not have them and will be unable to feed ourselves.

Secondly, this is privatisation and appropriation of our public-domain vegetable heritage. We, the people, already own these varieties – the old varieties grown by the majority of gardeners are the result of 11,000 years of selection and breeding by our ancestors, with parents passing on precious seed to their children, generations after generation. Their status is well-known and accepted, for example, they cannot be patented by the seed companies as they are in the public domain. So we should not have to suddenly pay an annual fee to the EU in order to carry on growing and eating them!

But the EU have just released a statement saying it is ok, there will be a way to register ‘old varieties’ cheaply. Why are we worried?

This tiny concession is a smokescreen. Worried by the public reaction to the law, the last draft we saw offered a once-off, limited-time relaxation, just for a short period when the new laws come in, that any old varieties already commonly on sale can be listed more cheaply and easily.

For some varieties, yes, this will help slightly, though we will still have to pay an annual fee to keep the varieties registered. But it is still outrageous – most old traditional varieties are not on sale: in our seedbank alone there are over 1200 old varieties we have yet to grow out and release to the public. These will all be outlawed overnight. Likewise all family heirlooms – your own special bean you got from your grandmother? Now it will be illegal to give that seed to your daughter to grow when you give up gardening.

But the EU press office have just released another statement saying we all misunderstand and this only applies to farmers!

We have been studying the draft law for almost 2 years now, with the aid of legal experts who challenged the last seed laws in the European Court of Justice. In every case, in the ‘executive summary’ at the start of the law, there have been vaguely reassuring promises that it will only apply to farmers, there will be concession for old seed etc. But every time, right from the start, the actual legal articles of the document itself, the bits that will become written into EU law completely contradict this.

It simply will not work the way the PR people are claiming. They are assuming that most politicians and journalists will only read the summary. But that does not become the law. It is the articles that will become the law, and they do not make anywhere near the same allowances. Those of us who have studied the draft from start to end – all 108 pages of it – agree that it does not make the concessions they are claiming.

Keep writing and tell your friends.

We have heard that due to the volume of people writing about this, last minute changes are being considered. As soon as the latest version is leaked (we hope to get a copy very soon :-) and we’ve had a chance to go though it, we will update this page with more information.

In the meantime, spread the word – we must stop this absurd law.


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