Reply from Alyn Smith MEP
To the letter Cath sent
10th December 2013
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    From: SMITH Alyn <>
Date: Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 9:26 AM
Subject: RE: The SNP's policy towards a new EU regulation on plant reproductive material
To: Cath Sanderson <>

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for emailing me on the important subject of preserving the genetic diversity of plant reproductive material, a subject on which my group in the European Parliament has campaigned on for thirty years, and which is subject to a new legislative proposal from the European Commission, which largely maintains the restrictive and administratively burdensome system of compulsory registration and certification of seeds.

I am delighted by the large amount of correspondence I have received on this, which is reflective of the strong popular support in Scotland for free exchange of seeds and the maintenance of biodiversity. Please allow me to address some of the points I have received in this reply.

First, in terms of procedure, I can reassure you that this regulation will be subject to an ordinary legislative procedure, which means that both your elected MEPs in the European Parliament and your elected governments in the Council will have full opportunities to scrutinise, debate, and amend the proposals. The Commission alone does not decide the final version of the law, and we in the Parliament can vote to approve or reject it. While I appreciate that many of you would like to see the report in the Parliament allocated to the Environment Committee, as a full member of the Agriculture Committee I feel that the proposals and concerns about biodiversity will get an equally fair hearing in AGRI. In any case, both committees will be fully involved in discussions.

Second, it is very important to note that the Commission proposal provides a clear exemption from its provisions for "non professional operators" i.e. private gardeners. Private gardeners will continue to be able exchange with other gardeners any type of seed, including those not tested or registered.
The proposal also provides lighter registration rules for "niche market varieties" (small scale activities adapted to local conditions and made available on the market in small quantities), which are exempt from testing and other requirements. Old traditional varieties can also be registered without going through the standard testing on the basis of an old description. Micro-enterprises (companies with less than 10 employees and with a turnover of less than 2m EUR) can market any type of material as "niche material" without a requirement for registration.

However, this is not to say that the proposal is acceptable. The general tests for registration, as well as being bureaucratic and costly for individuals and small enterprises, are designed for the kind of mass-produced seeds for intensive agriculture produced by large agricultural corporations, and will make it difficult in the long run to ensure that a wide variety of seeds designed for different climates and ecosystems, and for different needs and uses, will be available on the market. Furthermore, the new rules on mandatory cost recovery of controls from the plant reproductive material industry will also prove costly for smaller enterprises. This legislation clearly needs close scrutiny, and that is what I and my colleagues will be doing over the next few months.

Thank you once again for contacting us. Given your interest in the work of the office, I will if I may add you to our email list. Your email is of course kept strictly confidential. We are registered under the Data Protection Act and you can opt out at any time.
Alyn Smith MEP

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