EU seed policies must be based on the principle of diversity, not corporate uniformity and tailoring seed to be dependent on agro-chemical inputs.
The European Parliament's Environment Committee has voted for the Commission to withdraw its proposal for a Regulation on agricultural seeds and other plant reproductive material.
They rejected the Regulation - with a decisive 46-4 vote - because it would concentrate power among just five companies that dominate the seed market, and discriminate against non-industrial traditional plant varieties rich in genetic diversity.
Blatant support for an anti-competitive industry
"The regulation discriminates against any other seeds than industrial ones", said MEP Pavel Poc, for the Socialists & Democrats Group.
"Plants other than industrial ones - the so-called bio-diverse plants - are limited to small and bureaucratic niches. This means that the regulation intends to keep the market in the hands of the industrial seed and PRM suppliers."
"Some of the restrictive rules go against species varieties because they mix commercial and non-commercial purposes. Old or rare varieties - in reality: all non-industrial vegetables, fruits and crops - do not fulfil the biological criteria of industrial plants, so they would not pass the registration for the main market."
"The complexity of the rules would be a vital barrier for smaller actors. In particular, extending the scope of the law on plant reproductive material (PRM) beyond marketing to production is a serious problem.
"Small producers, who today are out of the scope of the PRM law, would suddenly need to fulfil bureaucratic rules. This clearly favours big producers because many small producers would simply be forced out of business."
Five companies have 95% of EU seed market
Green MEPs published a study this week highlighting the concentration of the European seed market. Green Party agriculture representative Martin Häusling said:
"The Commission's own impact assessment revealed that 95% of the vegetable seed sector is controlled by a mere five companies, yet in proposing draft seed legislation the Commission claimed there was no problem with market concentration."
"We are calling on the European Parliament to unite and reject the draft legislation. There is also a clear case for launching an antitrust investigation of the sector, as was done in the US.
"Too much power in the hands of a few agrochemical seed companies has major consequences for farmers. Prices of seed and planting stock have increased rapidly in recent years: by an average of 30.2% between 2000 and 2008 for the EU.
"EU seed policies must be based on the principle of diversity, not corporate uniformity and tailoring seed to be dependent on agro-chemical inputs."
Supporting genetic diversity
Green environment spokesperson Satu Hassi added: "There has been a steady global decrease in agricultural and horticultural genetic diversity, both in terms of genetic variation within strains and also the absolute numbers available for farmers and gardeners.
"The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) estimates the diversity of cultivated crops declined 75% during the 20th century and that a third of today's diversity could disappear by 2050. This trend must be reversed. We need this genetic diversity make our food systems resilient against climate change."
Both the Green and Socialist & Democratic Groups' MEPs are cimmitted to vote against the Regulation when it comes before the Agriculture Committee on 11th February, and at the Plenary vote in April.
Oliver Tickell edits The Ecologist.