Is the French seed industry lobbying the EC to extend advantages for large scale plant breeders?

EU DG health consumers logoA Cumbrian fruit grower has expressed alarm about a draft proposal for a new regulation on which the EU Directorate General for Health & Consumers has been working for some time. On Monday, the 6th of May they will present their proposal to the conference of commissioners. If a majority votes in favour, the proposal will be placed before the EU Parliament and Council.

The website is woefully out of date in all respects. A search on ‘seeds’ and ‘seed laws’ gave no result for 2013, and nothing relevant for the earlier years. The EU press office was no more helpful, though there are said to have been press releases endeavouring to meet these objections, saying that there will be reduced charges for small growers and that farmers will not be affected.

Conflict of interest allegations

There have been allegations of a conflict of interest as the new regulation has mainly been drafted by Isabelle Clement-Nissou, an employee of GNIS, the French lobby of the seed industry, who was sent as a national expert to Brussels to “support“ the EU Directorate.

The seed industry has spent a lot of money in lobbying to influence the seed legislation and it is said that they want the issue settled now and not postponed until after the election of a new parliament in May 2014.

Objections to the proposal

Objections to the proposal may be seen in the Arche Noah summary. Arche Noah is a Central European association of seed savers with 10.000 members who have worked for 20 years to preserve and cultivate endangered vegetable, fruit and grain diversity, bringing traditional and rare varieties into gardens and on the market again.

Note that the genetic diversity of our livestock is also under the spotlight, after a Government report finds that 75% of native breeds are under threat.

seed sovereignty campaign


The current EU seed legislation is said to handicap the marketing of traditional varieties that could be grown on European fields and favours homogeneity and large scale breeding and the European Court of Justice has failed to respond to the concerns of seed savers across the EU. Consumers and farmers must now reclaim ownership of their food. IFOAM’s EU Group calls on European citizens to speak out for EU laws that favour diversity on the plates, healthy food for all and diverse landscapes.

Antje Kölling, policy manager of IFOAM EU Group points out that: “A diversity of domestic plants is the basis for our long-term food security. Climate change, emerging plant pests or even new allergies may require us in the future to use plant varieties that we do not necessarily consider important today, due to their specific genetic characteristics”,. “The FAO estimates that 75% of domestic plant varieties globally have been lost in the last 100 years. This trend must be urgently reversed.”

Update: Listen again?

On Radio 4’s Farming Today Anna Hill hears warnings that EU proposals to make seed registration compulsory could lead to the loss of old and rare crop varieties, and stop people sharing seeds. The European Commission argues that updating the legislation will protect buyers and that there will be a ‘light touch’ when dealing with heritage varieties.



Posted on May 1, 2013, in Civil servants, Conflict of interest, Corporate political nexus, Lobbying, Revolving door, Vested interests and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Richard emails:

    Interesting isn’t it that when we had the GM-contaminated rape seed scandal the lawyers stated on Radio 4 that farmers would have no case against the seed company – despite strict varietal purity regulations etc.

    I would wager that anyone with naturally saved seeds would face the full force of the law – from those very companies.

    We have entered a mad world where the interpretation of law by a powerful few now overrules scientific fact.

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