During the last week I have received a number of emails from members of the public expressing concern about European Commission plans to "make seeds illegal unless they are registered with governments". Many of the people were keen gardeners who feared their hobby was being threatened by the EU.
I am happy to report that this is NOT the case. Last Tuesday in the European Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, European Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said that rumours of the Commission trying to strangle the seeds industry were UNTRUE and may have been based on rejected drafts and/or rumours.
Commissioner Borg explained that under current legislation, much of which dates back decades, all seeds need to be registered, but that the new regulation being proposed by the Commission will liberalise the seed registration system so that among other things:
• There will be no need for traditional seeds to undergo testing.
• Niche seeds made by micro enterprises will not have to be registered.
• Micro enterprises will be exempted from registration fees.
It is also (of course!) completely untrue that:
• Individual gardeners producing seeds for their own use will break the law and be prosecuted by the Commission (the rules only apply to commercial seed growers).
• The Commission will decide on these rules with no input from the European Parliament.
What will actually happen is that as the proposed regulation on seeds (http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/health_consumer/pressroom/docs/proposal_aphp_en.pdf) will be scrutinised by the European Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee before being voted on by all MEPs at the same time as being scrutinised by all EU national governments. In other words, the usual co-decision procedure.
A Q&A on the proposal can be found here: http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/plant_propagation_material/review_eu_rules/docs/faq_regulation_proposal_en.pdf
Unfortunately, due to the poor quality and negative focus of most reporting on EU affairs in the UK media (a mixture of lies, false rumours, wilful misinterpretation and exaggeration, see article by my colleague Catherine Bearder here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/catherine-bearder/time-to-banish-the-euromyths_b_3035820.html), people are rather inclined to be taken in by such stories. It is irresponsible of journalists not to check facts especially when by not doing so, they unnecessarily worry a lot of people, this time British gardeners.
There is also perhaps another reason why things are misreported and that is so certain organisations can claim they have affected policy change and show how effective they are. Commissioner Borg commented on this by noting that some organisations were claiming a "victory" in "persuading" the Commission to change its position on the seeds legislation, when in fact the position they were clamouring against never existed.