Seeds in Organic Agriculture

Freiheit für die Vielfalt

Free Diversity in Organic Farming

As an association, Arche Noah remains committed to the rules and principles of organic agriculture, which through its low-input nature, relies on a much wider range of plant diversity compared to intensive and input heavy farming. New rules for organic production are being discussed at European Union level since 2014, and we wish to see more openings for the use of agricultural biodiversity in the final text.  

The Reform Process

A new EU Regulation for the organic sector was proposed by the European Commission in 2014 (2014/0100). After protracted negotiations between the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament an initial agreement on a new Regulation was reached in June 2015. The Council and Parliament must now vote on the proposal – a decision is expected by the end of 2017.

 

 
 
bunte Chili-Vielfalt (c) Doris Steinböck

The Vision

ARCHE NOAH welcomes the provisions in the proposed new Regulation regarding seeds. First, Regulation would enable organic farmers to cultivate “organic heterogeneous material”, which can be marketed through a relatively simple notification procedure (compared to a much more complex and lengthy process for the registration of a new variety). This new seed category will increase the availability of organic plant reproductive material for organic farmers. It will also benefit agrobiodiversity, as a greater range of genetic diversity will find its way to the fields.

Second, farmers would also have the opportunity to use “organic varieties”, which aim to be tailored to low-input conditions, much more than varieties bred for conventional agriculture. The temporary experiment envisaged by the Regulation should ensure that these new varieties follow the needs and realities of the breeders and farmers on the ground and spread more widely.

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In spring 2017, ARCHE NOAH collected over 20,000 signatures within 14 days calling on the Austrian Agriculture Minister to actively support the creation of these new seed categories during the negotiations. More about this on our German site.