Plant Heritage Draft Letter
Sent by National Collection Holders to MEPs
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    Re: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL On the production and making available on the market of plant reproductive material (plant reproductive material law)
/* COM/2013/0262 final - 2013/0137 (COD) */

I am writing as a member of Plant Heritage, a charitable organisation that has for the last 35 years worked to conserve the biodiversity of plants in cultivation in the UK though the mechanism of National Plant Collections.

As you are aware the European Commission is looking to combine 12 existing EU directives on the production and marketing of plant reproductive material (which includes everything from seeds to young plants) into a single simpler regulation: The Commission proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the production and making available on the market of plant reproductive material (plant reproductive material law) (COM(2013) 262 final).

It has been stated that there is no intention to introduce tighter rules for ornamentals. However, industry representatives have identified that the worst-case scenario for the current proposed regulation could prove devastating for nurseries and growers. A new requirement that any plant marketed as a cultivar or variety needs to have an 'officially recognised description' has been proposed and the concern is that the vast costs of developing, maintaining and monitoring these officially recognised descriptions for the estimated 75,000+ ornamental plant varieties currently on sale in the UK would prove impossible to meet. The Royal Horticultural Society Plant Finder lists over around 52,000 plant cultivars marketed solely in the UK; of these around 2,000 cultivars already have an official description that conforms to the requirements. The RHS Plant Finder does not include non-terrestrial orchids, cacti or annual and seed cultivars. There are, at a conservative estimate, more than 75,000 ornamental plant taxa for sale in the UK. The result of imposing this requirement for an officially recognised description would potentially be a massive reduction in the number of cultivars grown for sale in the UK.

Many of the 12 existing directives covering the marketing of seed and propagating material contain listed genera and species to which more rigorous requirements apply. These listed genera and species, are carried across into Annex 1 of the current Commission proposal. There is no indication that Annex 1 taxa will be considered solely under the use under which they were originally listed (for example Castanea as a forest tree, rather than an ornamental or a food plant), so it appears possible that the more rigorous application will be followed for all uses.

The current proposal makes the rules with respect to ornamental plant material significantly more onerous than the previous directive, as it removes the options to market varieties that are 'commonly known', or entered with a detailed description on a supplier list (catalogue). Instead, the minimum requirement under the proposed regulation would be to list an officially recognised description onto a public or private list. This is neither proportionate, nor sustainable for an industry which is already under great financial pressure. It is likely to result in a dramatic cut in the number of cultivars available to gardeners, and thus create a loss of biodiversity. Precisely what the UK has agreed to prevent under the Aichi Biodiversity Targets: (

In addition to concerns about the wider horticultural industry as noted above, relating more narrowly to cultivated plant conservation, we have the following worries: It is stated in the proposals that the regulations do not apply to 'material intended to be or maintained in gene banks organisations and networks of ex-situ and in-situ or on-farm conservation of genetic resources'. However it appears that 'professional operators' (defined as 'any natural or legal person carrying out as a profession at least one of the following activities with regard to the plant reproductive material a) producing, b) breeding, c) maintaining, d) providing services, e) preserving, including storing, f) making available on the market) are all subject to the legislation.
It seems from our perspective that an assumption has been made that the only bodies that carry out conservation work are organisations like botanic gardens or networks developed purely for that purpose.

An organisation like Plant Heritage (and our counterparts in France, the Netherlands and Germany) that encompasses many commercial operators of all sizes has not been considered. However it is unlikely that the conservation of cultivars would be possible on such a scale if it were not for some form of commercial involvement; after all in many cases that is why they were created in the first place.

We are therefore very concerned that the changes will affect the profitability of horticulture, if not the existence of the ornamental plant trade in its current form; and in addition not protect those in the industry who are conserving plants; thus meaning that conservation of plants becomes the preserve of only botanic gardens and individuals with no commercial involvement, and the concomitant loss of biodiversity that this would cause.

Yours sincerely

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