Seeds in Organic Agriculture

Freiheit für die Vielfalt

Free Diversity in Organic Farming

As an association, Arche Noah is committed to the rules and principles of organic agriculture, which through its low-input approach, relies on a much wider range of plant diversity compared to intensive and input-heavy farming.
The new EU Organic Regulation (2018/848), which will  enter into force in January 2021, includes provisions to liberate plant diversity and to support small actors in organic farming. Successful implementation of these provisions is a key policy priority for Arche Noah.

The Reform Process

A new EU Regulation for the organic sector was proposed by the European Commission in 2014. After lenghty negotiations between the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament, an initial agreement on the new Regulation was reached at the end of 2017.

The Regulation was formally approved by the European Parliament plenary on the 19th April 2018, and by the European Council on 22nd May 2018. The full text of the Regulation is available here

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.

bunte Chili-Vielfalt (c) Doris Steinböck

The Vision

ARCHE NOAH welcomes the provisions in the proposed new EU Organic Regulation regarding seeds.

First, the Regulation will enable organic farmers, breeders and seed savers 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 and growers. It will also benefit agro-biodiversity, as a greater range of genetic diversity will find its way to the fields.

Second, organic farmers will have the opportunity to use new “organic varieties suitable for organic agriculture”, which are much more tailored to low-input conditions than varieties bred for conventional agriculture. A 7-year temporary experiment envisaged by the Regulation should lead to the process for variety registration being adapted to meet the special characteristics of these varieties. This new category has the potential to signficantly increase the supply of seeds on the market suited to organic agriculture, benefiting organic farmers.

In the Downloads box below, you can find detailed information on the new seed provisions as well as the new provisions for organic group certification in our Information Note. There is also a 2-page introduction for farmers, breeders, and seed savers.

EP conference banner

Conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, 16th October 2018

On 16 October 2018, Artemisia Aisbl and Arche Noah organised a conference at the European Parliament on “Seeds in the new Organic Regulation 2018/848”, with the support of the Green/EFA Group, and hosted by MEP’s Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA), Eric Andrieu (S&D), Ivan Jakovcic (ALDE) and Norbert Lins (EPP). You can find the conferencec programme here.

The event was a chance to celebrate the adoption of pioneering provisions surrounding the provision of seeds for the needs of organic agriculture, explore the innovative aspects and opportunities offered by the new rules, and envisage the future path ahead for seed savers, breeders, farmers and consumers, before the entry into force of the Regulation in January 2021.

You can re-watch the conference here: