About 75% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost worldwide since industrialisation. In response to this decline, the sustainable use and enhancement of plant genetic resources and agricultural genetic diversity formed an important part of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020. A continuation in the form of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 is crucial to address the main causes of biodiversity loss by 2030.
Farmers have contributed substantially to the evolution of genetic diversity in agriculture and they play a key role in the dynamic conservation and continuous improvement of these genetic resources alongside gene banks and (organic) research institutes.
Seeds in the New EU Organic Regulation
Organic farming needs more diverse organic Plant Reproductive Material (seeds and vegetative propagation material), and harmonised and true access to a wider range of cultivars adapted to regional climatic and organic growing conditions. The possibilities in the new Organic Regulation (EU) 2018/848 are an important step towards the increase and diversification of the seeds and other plant reproductive material available for organic farmers, but all depends on the implementations of the new provisions. The complete position of IFOAM EU regarding plant reproductive material in the new Organic Regulation (EU) 2018/848 is specified in the 2019 position paper.
With the new regulation it will be possible for organic farmers to access heterogeneous material i.e., mostly seed for arable crops. Today this seed is not legally available to farmers because it is characterised by a high level of genetic and phenotypic diversity. However, this diversity can be very useful in organic farming and for biodiversity conservation purposes.
Derogations that are currently permanent will be transitional in the new regulation. Therefore, farmers have continued access to non-organic seed when those are not available as organic - for a certain period only. The transition of derogations will be supported by national databases that will make the quantity of organic seed publicly available.
EU legislation on plant reproductive material
The EU legislation on the marketing of seed and plant propagating material (SPPM) consists of 12 basic acts. A complete overview on the specific legislation can be found on the EU Commission website. A process of reviewing the EU rules regarding plant reproductive material is currently ongoing.