Reply from Brian Simpson MEP
To the letter Cath sent
3rd December 2013
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    From: SIMPSON Brian <>
Date: Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 12:18 PM
Subject: RE: Letter on behalf of Horticultural Exhibitors in UK re. production and making available on the market of plant reproductive material /*COM/2013/0262 final - 2013/0137 (COD) */
To: Cath Sanderson <>

Dear Ms Sanderson,

On behalf of the European Parliamentary Labour Party Members I would like to thank you very much for your email.

The Plant Reproductive Material Regulation that you are concerned about was published by the Commission in May of this year and we are at this moment taking a very critical look at it.

The first seed laws were introduced to protect farmers from unscrupulous seed merchants selling either cheaper seed or even dust and sand. Therefore the main objective of the legislation on plant propagating material is to ensure a broad and informed choice, so that the user gets the necessary information on the identity of the material and that the health and quality of the material is ensured.

The marketing of seeds and plant propagating material legislation is currently composed of 12 basic Directives and approximately 90 other legal acts, dating back to the 1960's. The Directives have been developed at different times and with different approaches so that understanding the requirements in their entirety is not simple, neither for competent authorities who have to implement the legislation nor for plant growers that have to comply with them. The Commission proposed therefore to replace the existing Directives with one single Regulation with an aim to simplify, update and modernise the current rules.

Both the current and proposed legislation provide a basic level of consumer protection for the quality and identity of reproductive material of plant species of minor or no importance for food production. For ornamental plant reproductive material sold under a variety name, the current legislation requires the variety to be at least ‘commonly known’ or ‘on a suppliers list with its detailed description’. The Commission’s new proposal removes this possibility and requires plants to have 'an officially recognised description', obliging farmers to include more technical information on their plant propagating material.
Our concern is that the more detailed description would increase costs for growers, as providing more specific information would require an experienced person with access to plant material of that variety.

We welcome the Commission's attempt to simplify the current rules and reduce red tape. We do not however believe this change for ornamental plant reproductive material could bring any benefit. We are worried it could impose a financial burden on plant cultivars. Plant breeders who sell their varieties only in modest numbers might not be able to afford it anymore and would be deleted from the catalogues. This could, as you mentioned in your email, reduce the number of ornamental plants on the market leading to less consumer choice and the loss of biodiversity.

We are very grateful for the inspiring work plant conservation organisations, such as the Plant Heritage, are doing. It is essential for the preservation of biodiversity and reintroduction of plants which would have otherwise been lost. We agree with you that the Plant Heritage, encompassing many commercial operators, is clearly a plant genetic resources network and it needs to be recognised as such.

Initial consideration of the proposed text is done for the Parliament through the Agriculture Committee. The Committee decided on a rapporteur who is responsible, on behalf of the Committee, for drafting a report on the Regulation. The report has just been published and Members of the Agriculture Committee can submit amendments by 4th December. As the European Parliamentary Labour Party spokesperson on agriculture, I am carefully analysing the proposed changes, discussing how to best tackle different issues raised. I will table amendments to reverse the change for ornamental plant reproductive material, since there is no evidence of consumer dissatisfaction in the ornamentals market and no evidence to support the need for more regulation. Moreover, I intend to clarify that plant conservation organisations do not need to be statutory in order to be treated as a plant genetic resources networks.

The UK is well-known for growing a wider range of plants than in gardens anywhere else in the world and we are very proud of our heritage and of the interesting and valuable varieties we have. You can rest assured that the European Parliamentary Labour Party Members will not allow this heritage to be threatened.

Best wishes,
Brian Simpson MEP

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