Conservative victory lifts threat to our seed industry and garden centres

11-Feb-2014 @ 16:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Conservative MEPs scored a major success today when EU plans - which could have created huge problems for Britain's garden centres and producers of packet seeds – were rejected.

Following pressure from Conservatives on the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, a majority of MEPs voted to throw out proposals from the European Commission which would effectively have put the production and sale of ornamental seeds for hobby gardeners on the same legal footing as the commercial seed industry, supplying bulk stocks to farmers.

This would have obliged producers to go through a complicated and costly registration process for each new ornamental seed variety developed.

Conservative Agriculture spokesman Julie Girling said: "Effectively it would have meant no new ornamental plants would have been allowed across the EU. No-one would have been able to afford the costs of getting new varieties registered.

"I received hundreds of letters and emails from people in the industry who were clearly scared to death that this was going to kill their business. I am relieved and delighted that we have persuaded the committee to kick these foolish and heavy-handed proposals into touch. Now we hope and expect that the full parliament will back the committee's decision."

The Report on the Regulation of Plant Reproductive Material has caused alarm across the garden supplies sector, but especially among smaller and independent seed-suppliers and retailers.

They said rules that should only apply to major food crops and the agricultural market were being applied indiscriminately. This would severely damage activities of gardeners, municipal horticulturalists, wildlife conservationists, smallholders and allotment growers.

They feared small suppliers would go out of businesses, leaving only multi-national conglomerates to dominate the market.

Today's committee vote was to reject the Commission proposal in its entirety.

Mrs Girling said: "This is telling the Commission to go back to the drawing board and come up with a whole new set of proposals which are a more proportionate, more in line with the real world and less devastating for an important and valued industry."

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