A guiding principle throughout the Commission’s White Paper of 12 January 2000 on Food Safety is 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 Europe's 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.
In addition to those aspects, plant health, protection of intellectual property (rights of the breeders of the plant varieties), GM seeds (marketing of), organic farming (seed and propagating material suitable for) and the protection of biodiversity are either directly covered or coherence with them is ensured.
In order to remove any unforeseen difficulties in the general supply of seed that occurs in the Community (the supply shortage in most cases is caused by the reduced germination of seed) and that cannot be otherwise overcome, Member States may be authorised to permit for a specific period the marketing throughout the Community of seed subject to less stringent requirements.
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.