There is a new threat to our freedom to buy and share seeds of heirloom and less popular plant varieties.
The EU is considering a bill to tidy up lots of separate bits of legislation on plant reproductive material. As it stands the bill would require even small seed companies and informal seed banks like Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library (HSL) to go through an expensive registration process for each variety to show that it meets a Europe-wide DUS standard.
“DUS” stands for “Distinct, Uniform and Stable”, which means that all seeds of a variety should be genetically nearly identical. This standard suits the needs of large seed companies and industrial scale growers, but goes against small traditional farmers who save and exchange their own seeds, and anyone concerned about the longer term sustainability of agriculture, because it dramatically narrows the genetic diversity of the crops we depend on for our food.
Many small seed companies would likely have to stop trading, as they could not afford the registration process. The HSL could face a bill of half a million pounds – an impossible amount.
Traditional, open pollinated seed varieties are the result of years of careful selection by generations of growers. Control of this precious resource should not be expropriated by large corporations. That would amount to a theft every bit as terrible as taking away a farmer’s land.
There is still time for us to influence this legislation by writing to our MEPs, and to the Chief and Shadow Rapporteurs for Agriculture at the European Parliament. You can find contact details for your MEPs at WriteToThem. The Garden Organic website has details of the Rapporteurs, as well as more information on how to protest.