Media Release, 21 July 2016


This post is also available in French

Public domain varieties are finally free of the “official catalogue’s” shackles

Last night, on Wednesday July 20th, the French National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) voted once and for all the law “for the reclaiming of biodiversity”, following two year long  legislative procedure and many reversals in the legal provisions’ content.

In any event, this law is a true breath of fresh air for cultivated plants’ biodiversity, thanks to the article 4-quarter, which itself has come across various obstacles, and which has finally become article 11 of the amended law:

Article 11:

The rural and maritime fishing code is thus modified:

1° The article L. 661-8 is supplemented by a subparagraph as follows:

“The assignment, the supply or the transfer, carried out for free or – if it is carried out by an association governed by the law of January 1st 1901 concerning the contract of association – in return of payment of seeds or of propagating materials of plants derived from  cultivated species of varieties belonging to the public domain to non-professional end-users not aimed at the  commercial exploitation of the variety, shall not be subjected to the present article’s provisions, with the exception of sanitary rules concerning selection and production”.

This means that all the associations governed by the 1901 Law will from now on be able to provide, exchange and sell seeds from public domain varieties* to amateur gardeners, whether they are included or not in the “official catalogue”. Only the trade regulations health requirements will continue to apply.

Many associations will be able to benefit from these provisions, and the small businesses that will not be able to enjoy this exemption will be invited to create associations for the distribution of “off-catalogue” varieties.

Gardeners will from now on have access to a very wide range of seeds, much more diversified than previous ones in taste, shape and color. It is to be hoped that this biodiversity will quickly spread in all vegetable gardens in France and elsewhere.

For the record, these new provisions occur in a context of expanding erosion of agricultural biodiversity. In only a century, 90% of traditional varieties used by small farmers around the world have already disappeared from our fields and our plates, according to the FAO.

For this remarkable improvements in our right, a tribute should be payed to the courage and commitment of Ms Geneviève Gaillard, Ms Barbara Pompili, Ms Delphine Batho, Ms Laurence Abeille, Mr Jerome Bignon, Ms Evelyne Didier, Ms Marie-Christine Blandin, Mr Joel Labbé, Mr François Grosdidier, without whose political support none of this would have been possible at the National Assembly and at the Senate.

Of course, there’s still work left to do at the European level for famers to be able to have equal access to a wide range of genetic resources, and we are committed to work on this. Anyway, with the French “biodiversity” law, we have a first breakthrough on the seed trade legislation which it is very important to celebrate.

*Varieties “belonging to the public domain” are all those varieties of cultivated species which are not protected by an intellectual property rights regulation (Proprietary Variety Protection Certificate or patent).

Blanche Magarinos-Rey
D.E.A. Droit de l’Environnement
D.E.S.S. Droits de l’Urbanisme et des Travaux Publics

51, Av. Raymond Poincaré
75116 PARIS
Tel : +33 (0)1 56 89 86 00
Fax: +33 (0)1 56 89 86 09
mail :

Translation kindly provided by Elisa Mussio and Aisosa Erun Imagbe Idaho

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This post is also available in: French