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Food Safety

- Regulatory Committees - Standing Committee on Agricultural, Horticultural and Forestry Seeds and Plants

Short report of the Joint Meeting of the Standing Committees on "Seed and Propagating Material for Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry" (SCS), "Propagating Material of Ornamental Plants" (SCO) and "Propagating Material of Fruit Plants" (SCF) held on 22 and 23 January 2001.

Chairman: M. Del Bino (item 2c), Mr Valvassori (remaining items)

All Member States present. The Community Plant Office (CPVO) and Norway participated as observers.

1. Matters arising from the previous EU comparative trials on seed and propagating material of: a) Agricultural Plant Species and Vegetables, b) Ornamental Plants and c) Fruit Plants

The Committee discussed a preliminary report presented by the Commission (SANCO) concerning the results of the "meetings of experts" held during 2000, on the trials on

- potato, P

- spring swede rape, UK

- sunflower, E

- spring barley, IRL

- ribes, FIN

- cotton, GR

- maize, A.

It noted that the following trials are in progress and acknowledged the proposed dates for the "meetings of experts" in 2001

- electrophoresis (agricultural plants), F, 10. April

- spring swede rape, UK, 26./27. April

- wheat, I, 31. May/1. June

- grasses, D, 7./8. June.

2. Discussion on technical protocols for EU comparative trials on seed and propagating material for 2001/2002 of a) Agricultural Plant Species (including seed testing), Vegetables and Vine, b) Ornamental Plants and c) Fruit Plants

The Committee noted a set of arrangements for comparative trials submitted in two drafts: instructions to the Member States who will submit samples of seed or propagating material to the trials and technical protocols to be adopted - for each individual trial - by the body responsible for the trial. These arrangements have been submitted to the relevant Committee as foreseen by the relevant Directives.

Concerning the envisaged "open call for tender" for the execution of the comparative trials, the Commission (SANCO) informed that the detailed technical and administrative requirements will be officially published.

As regards the "call for tender" several delegations reiterated their opinion expressed in the Standing Committee on Seed held on 30 May 2000, that the execution of services must be reserved to bodies administratively and technically competent for the certification or control of seed/propagating material and/or for the control of varieties, under the Community legislation, as officially designated by their own National Authorities.

The Committee agreed to select

- under SCS

  • Grasses
  • Maize
  • Wheat
  • Potato
  • Cotton
  • Soya bean
  • Swede rape
  • Sunflower
  • Seed testing (Commission Decision 98/320/EEC on the organization of a temporary experiment on seed sampling and seed testing - Art. 3(8))
  • Tomato (Council Directive 70/458/EEC)
  • Shallot (Council Directive 98/33/EEC)
  • Vine

- under SCO

  • Lobelia/Lathyrus/Petunia
  • Narcissus
  • Chamaeciparis
  • Euphorbia fulgens
  • Ligustrum vulgare

- under SCF

  • plum

Furthermore the delegations agreed, without prejudice to the above opinions expressed concerning the "open call for tender", to supply to Commission Services with comments in writing on the draft arrangements, including the number of samples which will be submitted.

On the occasion, certain delegations expressed the wish that the Commission might organize visits of experts in 2001 at the place of the national trials, pursuant Community Council Directives 92/33/EEC, 93/34/EEE and 98/56/EC.

2a. and 2b. Possible draft Commission Decision authorising Member States to permit temporarily the marketing of seed of certain species not satisfying the requirements of Council Directives on the marketing of seeds.

The Committee noted requests from Member States where the availability of seed which satisfies to requirements laid down in Council Directives on the marketing of seed is insufficient and is therefore not adequate to meet the countrie's need:

- D, field pea and field bean in relation to the germination capacity

- F, field pea in relation to the germination capacity

- L, field pea and field bean in relation to the germination capacity

- NL, wheat in relation to the examination of the satisfaction of the conditions to be satisfied by the crop

- A, field pea, field bean, blue lupine and soya bean in relation to germination capacity

- S, field pea and field bean in relation to germination capacity and

- UK, soya bean in relation to germination capacity.

It started to assess whether it is possible to cover such demands satisfactorily with seed from other Member States and from third countries.

2c. Adventitious presence of GM seeds in seed of conventional plant varieties - possible amendments to be made to the Annexes of the Directives on the marketing of seeds

Exploratory talks were carried out on the basis of a SANCO-Working Paper suggesting amendments to be made to the annexes of the current EU Directives on the marketing of seed, aiming to introduce requirements in five areas:

a) freedom from GM seeds not covered by an authorisation under part C of Council Directive 90/220/EEC;

b) establishment of thresholds (0,3 % and 0,5 % account being taken of the reproductive systems of the plants) to be tested in laboratory in respect of varietal impurities of authorised GMOs;

c) standards on previous cropping (to ensure a sufficient freedom from GM plants which are volunteers, in so far they belong to the same species, or a closely related species);

d) isolation distances, in the case of cross-pollinating seed crops from neighbouring sources of pollen of GM plants;

e) completion of the current labelling provisions for packages of seed, in particular a statement concerning "EU-unapproved genetically modified organisms".

The Committee welcomed the presentation of the document and supported in general the approach there suggested.


- All delegations expressed disagreement with the envisaged wording of the above labelling requirement.

- Some delegations advised the Commission services to focus in particular on the following:

= to consider the need of having harmonised methodologies in respect of seed sampling and testing;

= to define the statistical meaning of the "not present" requirement for unapproved EU varieties;

= to clarify the relationship between the envisaged thresholds and the varietal standards set out in the current legislation;

= possibly, to provide more extensive scientific arguments on the rationale of the various standards (thresholds, previous cropping and isolation distances);

= possibly, to differentiate the various standards according to the categories of seed and the type of variety (e.g. open-pollinated varieties, hybrids).

- One delegation expressed doubts from a legal point of view on the relationship with the Council Directive 90/220/EEC.

- One delegation preferred to restrict the scope of the requirements concerning EU unapproved GMOs (e.g. to allow GMOs approved under part B of Council Directive 90/220/EEC).

- One delegation  reserved its position on the envisaged thresholds in respect of varietal impurities of authorised GMOs: this delegation preferred nil.

Finally, the Committee was informed that consultations are in progress to seek the opinion of the Commission Scientific Committee on Plants and the advice of European professional organisations. Two documents received just before the meeting from the European Seed Association (ESA) and the European Association for Bioindustries (EuropaBio) have been distributed to the Committee.

On the occasion the Committee noted the reports on the meetings of the Sub-Groups on "Methods of detection of the presence of GMO impurities in conventional seeds" and "Methods of sampling for testing GMO impurities in conventional seeds", held on 5 December 2000 and 8 December 2000 respectively.

3. Other business.

The Committee noted:

a) in respect of the Common Catalogue of varieties:

- the drafts of the supplements to the Common Catalogue of agricultural plant species (varieties from 1.9.2000 to 31.12.2000) and vegetables (varieties from 1.10.2000 to 31.12.2000) and acknowledged that the finalisation of these drafts is currently subject to the completion of the following assessments:

  • the suitability of the denomination of certain varieties, as well as
  • whether the acceptance of maize varieties for inclusion in certain Member States' catalogues was based, in respect of distinctness, uniformity and stability, on the results of official examinations which required two years of sowing.

- a schedule in respect of a meeting of the Working Party on the Common Catalogues of varieties to be held on 20-21 February 2001. It was informed that the item "Electronic exchange of data" will be discussed in depth. On that occasion, the company in charge of the technical maintenance and development of the Common Catalogues, in co-operation with the informatics service of DG SANCO, will hold a demonstration.

b) an information on the meeting of the OECD Advisory Group held in Vienna on 15/16 January 2001 on the "OECD proposal for a voluntary experiment on the validation of GM seed testing and its implication for seed certification rules".

On the basis of results of the above meeting, the OECD secretariat will draft a revised proposal, to be discussed likely in the next Annual meeting of the Designated Authorities, scheduled for 25 - 29 June 2001. The Delegation of Sweden indicated that under Swedish Presidency, the Council will organize in due time a meeting of the "Council OECD Co-ordination Working Party".

N.B: The measures on which the Committee has given an opinion are subject to the appropriate procedure for final adoption by the Commission.

List of participants

Standing Committee on Seeds and Propagating Material Date : 22 - 23 January 2001

Etat Membre

Ministère ou Organisme

Nombre de personnes


Ministère Agriculture et des Classes Moyennes






Bundessortenamt + Biologische Bundesanstalt

2 + 1


Ministry of Agriculture



Ministerio de Medio Ambiente



Ministère de l'agriculture et de la pêche sous direction de la foret + GNIS

1 + 1


Forest Service, Department of the Marine and Natural Resources



Ministero delle Politiche Agricole, Direzione Generale Risorse Forestali + ENSE

1 + 1


Administration des Service Techniques de l'Agriculture



Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, Management and Fisheries and Naktuinbouw

1 + 2


BFL Institut + Bundesministerium

1 + 1


Ministerio da Agricultura - Direcção Geral de Protecção das Culturas



Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry



Swedish Board of Agriculture






Ministry of Agriculture



European Commission



Community Plant Variety Office



- Regulatory Committees - Standing Committee on Agricultural, Horticultural and Forestry Seeds and Plants



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