Under the EU legislation on the marketing of seed and plant propagating material, varieties must undergo an approval process and get listed on the national and common seed catalogues before their seed can be marketed within the EU. These rules ensure that farmers, horticulturalists and foresters have access to seed with high intrinsic quality. However, there are certain varieties which are not listed in these catalogues, but are still important to ensure that plant genetic diversity is not diminished. The questions of biodiversity and the conservation of plant genetic resources have grown in importance in recent years. The Commission has developed specific legislation on conservation varieties so that varieties of agricultural and vegetable crops, which may be threatened by genetic erosion and which are adapted to regional and local conditions, may be marketed under certain derogatory rules.
Directive 2008/62/EC provides that agricultural landraces and varieties which are naturally adapted to the local and regional conditions (conservation varieties) can be placed on the catalogues without official examination, once they meet some minimum standards.
Directive 2009/145/EC foresees less stringent requirements for the vegetable landraces and varieties which have been traditionally grown in particular localities and regions (conservation varieties) and vegetable varieties with no intrinsic value for commercial crop production but developed for growing under particular conditions (varieties developed for growing under particular conditions) as regards the acceptance of the varieties and the marketing of the seed.
Equally, conservation and preservation of natural environment of species-rich grassland has gained importance. Directive 2010/60/EU provides for less stringent rules which are necessary to allow the marketing of fodder plant seed mixtures as 'preservation seed mixtures'. The seed of these mixtures is collected from natural or semi-natural grassland which are designated by the Member States in accordance with the Habitat Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) or with comparable national rules as special areas of conservation and thus worthy of preservation. Derogation to the normal rules was necessary as the components of those mixtures do not comply with some of the general EU marketing rules for seeds, e.g. varietal identity and purity.