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A guiding principle throughout the Commissionís White Paper of 12 January 2000 on Food Safetyis that food safety policy must be based on a comprehensive approach throughout the food chain and that for the health of consumers to be successfully protected, every link in this chain needs to be as strong as the others. The European seed industry is the primary supplier to Europeís food and feed chain. In line with the emphasis upon the inter-linked nature of food production, in September 1999, responsibility for seeds transferred from the Directorate General for Agriculture to the Directorate General for Health & Consumer Protection.
The White Paper on Food Safety affirms that consumers should be offered products from all Member States that are safe and of high quality and that this is the essential role of the internal market. The seed and propagating material marketing Directives which cover agricultural, vegetable, forest, fruit and ornamental species and vines, assist the functioning of the internal market in ensuring that seed and propagating material marketed within the Community meets criteria for health and quality.
This objective is furthered by Council Directive 2002/53/EC of 13 June 2002 on the common catalogue of varieties of agricultural plant species and Council Directive 2002/55/EC of 13 June 2002 on the marketing of vegetable seed, which lay the legislative basis for the two respective common catalogues, which list the varieties accepted for certification or control and marketing within the Community. Varieties must meet standards, notably pertaining to distinctness, uniformity, stability and, in the case of agriculture, value for cultivation and use in order to be listed. In the case of varieties of agricultural plant species, their satisfactory value for cultivation and use is based on yields, resistance to harmful organisms, behaviour with respect to factors in the physical environment and quality characteristics. If a variety of an agricultural plant, vegetable, forest or vine species is genetically modified, it shall only be accepted for inclusion in a national catalogue under the following supplementary conditions. Firstly, it must have been accepted for marketing in accordance with Council Directive 90/220/EEC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms or after having carried out an environmental risk assessment equivalent to that laid down in Directive 90/220/EEC under a procedure which shall be introduced, on a proposal from the Commission, in a Council Regulation. Secondly, where material derived from such a variety is intended to be used as a food or food ingredient, the food or food ingredient must have already been authorised pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No 258/97/EC concerning novel foods and novel food ingredients.
The Commission is assisted by the Member States through three Standing Committees: the Standing Committee on Seeds and Propagating Material for Agricultural, Horticulture and Forestry, the Standing Committee on Propagating Material of Ornamental Plants, and the Standing Committee on Propagating Material and Plants of Fruit Genera and Species. Independent scientific advice is provided by the Scientific Committee on Plants.