The final compromise on the future European regulation for organic production has finally been adopted on November 22nd, after 3 years of long and difficult negotiations (the longest in the history of the EU).
Against all pronostics, the EU Council has adopted the compromise on Monday morning, against Germany’s position and through a qualified majority of 19 Member States IN FAVOUR, 6 Member States AGAINST (CZ, LT, SK, AT, CY, FI) and 3 Member States ABSTAINING (HU, DE, BE). The (very good) surprise came from Sweden and Poland, which changed their mind over the week-end !
Moreover, on the same day, the agri committee of the European Parliament has also adopted the final compromise, by 29 voices IN FAVOUR, 11 voices AGAINST and 4 ABSTENTIONS.
This new regulation introduces two new categories of “varieties” of seeds available for organic agriculture: “organic heterogeneous material”, which essentially corresponds to the thousands of traditional varieties currently prohibited for sale by the effect of the “official catalogue”, and “organic varieties suitable for organic production”, derived from organic breeding programs specifically adapted to the needs and constraints of organic farming.
“Organic heterogeneous material” has been taken out of the scope of the horizontal legislation on the marketing of seeds, so to say. It will not have to go through the registration procedure anymore, nor to be subject to the technical certification of seed lots. It will be allowed for marketing through a simple notification to the competent authority, in the form of a dossier presenting the agronomic and phenotypic characteristics of the material. The competent authority will have 3 months to comment on the completeness of the dossier. Beyond this deadline, the dossier will be deemed acknowledged and the material will be allowed to be put on the market.
The Commission is entitled to adopt a delegated act laying down rules ensuring a minimum quality of seed lots destined to be placed on the market (identity of the material, specific purity, germination rate and sanitary quality), as well as rules on labelling and packaging of this material.
As for “organic varieties suitable for organic production“, they will be authorised on the market under the derogatory conditions that will be defined by the Commission in the framework of a « temporary experiment » of 7 years, which will intend to evaluate the characteristics of these new varieties and to subsequently adapt the horizontal legislation on the marketing of seeds.
These new categories will not replace the F1 hybrid varieties currently available; they only add to the current seed offer. However, they will have to be “preferred” by organic producers when making a choice.
These provisions, after 22 years of widespread use of non-organic seeds (the first obligation was introduced in 1995, but has remained largely ignored), will help better meet the principles of organic farming (high level of biodiversity) and the obligations contained in the organic farming standards (seeds of organic quality), but will also provide organic farmers with much better adapted varieties to their agronomic needs.
The compromise also expressly allows organic farmers to produce and use their own seeds.
These provisions represent a major change in the legislation on the marketing and use of seeds, which opens fantastic perspectives for cultivated biodiversity in organic production, but also for the whole farming sector, in the long term.
For more details on other changes brought by the new regulation for organic production, read the summarized briefing.
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