Plant varieties threatened by law changes

SNP MEP Alyn Smith has warned that new European proposals on plant reproductive material may see thousands of plant varieties disappear from the market, and at the same time place a massive administrative burden on Scottish gardeners and seed producers.

The new proposed rules would mean tortuous form-filling in order to provide hugely detailed botanical descriptions of perhaps as many as 50,000 plant varieties. This is an expensive and time-consuming job but, if not completed, could result in thousands of plant varieties being taken off the market altogether.

Alyn's comments come after meeting with the British Society of Plant Breeders in Milnathort yesterday.

Alyn said:

"With a seed potato industry worth around £100 million to the Scottish economy, and with 75% of the UK's seed potatoes coming from Scotland, the industry is an important one to us and these new rules could cause great damage.

"While it is absolutely worthwhile trying to merge the twelve different laws that currently govern seed and plant reproductive materials, the European Commission's proposals are too heavy-handed and prescriptive.

"Our exporters and growers put in a shift of work and do a huge amount to maintain our country’s high health reputation. We should be working to support this sector, not get in its way.

"One degree of sense from the Commission is that private gardeners are outside the scope of the regulation but that is small comfort for all those businesses facing costly and extremely lengthy paperwork in order to meet the requirements of the regulation.

"It is crucial we get this right. I will be fighting hard to see this bureaucratic and unnecessary proposal overturned as the Agriculture Committee sets to work on its amendments."