About future EU rules
The Commission takes action to better align the legislation on plant and forest reproductive material with the goals of the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork, Biodiversity and Climate Adaptation Strategies. The future EU rules aim to be uniformly applied, efficient and effective, more open to integrating new and future developments, more sustainable and supportive of biodiversity, climate proof, and to ensure a high level of protection of the environment.
In 2019, the Council (Council Decision (EU) 2019/1905) requested the Commission under Article 241 TFEU to provide a study on the Union's options to update the existing legislation on the production and marketing of plant reproductive material ('PRM study'). Furthermore, the Council called on the Commission to prepare a legal proposal, if deemed appropriate in view of the outcome of the PRM study.
The Commission followed up on the request of the Council with the PRM study and a letter to the Council.
In the past decade, there have been numerous new technical developments in the breeding and seed production sector, which can only be partially addressed or not addressed at all, with the tools of the existing PRM legislation. This development has been accompanied by a growing demand for sustainability in agriculture and the increasing need to support conservation of agro-biodiversity and adaptation to climate change. The PRM study has identified, with the support of an external contractor, these new challenges and confirmed the continued relevance of certain key problems identified in an evaluation of the legislation, which was carried out in 2007 – 2008.
Overview of the existing PRM legislation
- Directive 66/401/EEC – marketing of fodder plant seed
- Directive 66/402/EEC – marketing of cereal seed
- Directive 2002/53/EC – common catalogue of agricultural plant species
- Directive 2002/54/EC – marketing of beet seed
- Directive 2002/55/EC – marketing of vegetable seed
- Directive 2002/56/EC – marketing of seed potatoes
- Directive 2002/57/EC – marketing of seed of oil and fibre plants
- Directive 68/193/EEC – marketing of material for the propagation of the vine
- Directive 1998/56/EC – marketing of propagating material of ornamental plants
- Directive 2008/72/EC – marketing of vegetable material, other than seed
- Directive 2008/90/EC – marketing of fruit propagating material and fruit plants for fruit production
- Directive 1999/105/EC – marketing of forest reproductive material
Question and Answers
Some questions frequently asked in this subject area.
The Commission has taken on board the still valid outcomes of the 2013 PRM proposal. Furthermore, the Commission has integrated the experience and data, which have been gathered during the last years. This included a temporary experiment on populations and data regarding amateur and conservation varieties. Amateur varieties do not have any intrinsic value for commercial crop production and have been developed for growing under particular conditions. Furthermore, the Commission is finalising the legal framework for organic heterogeneous material and is preparing rules on registration of organic varieties.
The updated review was put together by an external contractor which prepared and synthesised the evidence available in literature and the insights collected from stakeholders on key aspects of the PRM legislation.
In particular, the work carried out by the contractor helped to:
- analyse which problems identified in the previous evaluation of 2007 – 2008 are still relevant today
- explore how recent developments, such as technical developments, new regulations (Official Controls Regulation, Plant Health Regulation) and increasing concerns around climate change adaptation, biodiversity and food security, impact on PRM issues
- address criticisms of previous proposals, by filling gaps in knowledge on the amateur gardener market and treated Forest Reproductive Material separately
EU Member States' and EEA competent authorities, industry representatives and Farmers' organisations, civil society organisations, PRM experts, and the wider public were consulted.
Yes, participants in the validation survey have been able to answer to two open questions. The first question asked stakeholders to communicate any additional problems with the legislation on the production and marketing of plant reproductive material. The second question was about stakeholders' recommendations to change the PRM legislation. Details are available in the Staff Working Document.
In the Commission's view, the evaluation and the impact assessment accompanying the proposal of 2013 remain generally valid. However, since 2013 there have been new scientific and technical developments, increasing challenges caused by climate change and a demand for sustainability in agriculture and for conservation of agro-biodiversity.
See the "Review of EU rules" page.
A proposal on PRM would indeed fit into other priorities and policies initiated by this Commission, including the Green Deal, the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies as well as the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change.
The goals of the Farm to Fork Strategy, as part of the Green Deal include reducing the environmental and climate footprint of the EU food system and strengthen its resilience, ensuring food security in the face of climate change and reducing biodiversity loss. Sustainable food systems also rely on seed security and diversity. Farmers need to have access to a wide range of quality seeds of plant varieties adapted to the pressures of climate change. Updated rules on seeds and new and improved plant varieties can contribute to achieving a more sustainable, productive and diversified EU agriculture. Moreover, they can also help farmers to improve food quality and security. The Biodiversity Strategy states that the decline of genetic diversity must also be reversed, including by facilitating the use of traditional varieties of crops and breeds. This would also bring health benefits through more varied and nutritious diets. The Commission will take measures to facilitate the registration of seed varieties, including for organic farming, and to ensure easier market access for traditional and locally adapted varieties.
The EU Adaptation Strategy emphasises the need to make better use of genetic diversity and plant and forest genetic resources for adaptation to climate change, and to facilitate the broadening of the supply of suitable high-quality PRM and FRM to support adaptation in agriculture, forestry, and land ecosystem management.
The PRM study concludes that there are problems with the legislation concerning a lack of coherence across the Directives, complex and rigid procedures, uneven implementation and obstacles to innovation. The lack of a harmonised and risk-based framework for official controls and IT support systems creates a non-level playing field for official controls within the Union. The current legislation complicates the adoption of measures to contribute to the goals of the Green Deal, the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies as well as the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change.
Action needs to be taken to address the problems with the legislation on the production and marketing of PRM and FRM. The PRM study identifies the options to address these problems.
There is sufficient evidence and scientific basis for the Commission to take policy action, which will entail carrying out an impact assessment. The Commission intends to adopt a legislative proposal revising the current legal framework taking into consideration the outcome of the impact assessment.
The Commission will reach out to stakeholders to discuss the outcome of the PRM study with the European Parliament, the Council, and stakeholders, and to gather views on the proposed follow-up. The Commission intends to publish an Inception Impact Assessment in the second quarter of 2021 and afterwards an Impact Assessment, following which the Commission will adopt a legislative proposal. Throughout the entire process the Commission will further consult all interested parties.
The legislative proposal would revise the current legal framework in order for the legislation to be in line with the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork, Biodiversity and Climate Adaptation Strategies, uniformly applied, efficient and effective, more open to integrating new and future developments, ensuring a high level of protection of the environment, more sustainable and supportive of biodiversity and climate proof.
The 2013 PRM proposal was rejected in 2014 by the European Parliament whereas the Council expressed support for the proposal and provided orientations for a possible amendments. In 2015, the Commission withdrew the proposal. In 2017, a COREPER letter was sent to the Commission asking about its intentions to revisit the issue and introduce a new proposal on the production and marketing of plant reproductive material. Commissioner Andriukaitis replied in 2018 that it would be for the new Commission to re-evaluate the situation based on the available elements.
Based on an evaluation in 2007-2008 [Final report – Annexes – Executive summary ], an Action Plan in 2009 and an impact assessment in 2011-2012; in May 2013, the European Commission submitted a proposal for a Regulation on the production and marketing of PRM including forest reproductive material (FRM). The proposed Regulation aimed at consolidating, updating and simplifying the existing legal framework regarding all sectors of seed and other PRM by replacing the 12 existing Directives ('2013 PRM proposal').
The 2013 PRM proposal addressed several areas of concern such as the complexity, rigidity, and fragmentation of the legislation, the non-level playing field, and the lack of coherence with other policies. Moreover, the aim was to create links with the new legislation related to plant health and official controls. These two Regulations were revised at the same time and entered into force in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
As mentioned, the main objective was to create a common and simplified framework for all sectors of seed and other plant reproductive material, and in particular to:
- grant more responsibility and flexibility to operators
- cut red tape and costs by making the rules more flexible and efficient across the EU
- create more opportunities for niche markets and for small producers
- make the rules more compatible with policy aims such as sustainable intensification of agriculture and the enhancement and conservation of biodiversity
- streamline administrative procedures to support innovation; and
- establish a level playing field by introducing the principle of cost recovery
See the "Review of EU rules" page.