Dear friends, How many times have we asked you to write to your MP, European or otherwise? Never, that’s how many. So this is a first. It’s a plea to take 5 minutes out of your bank holiday weekend to write about something very, very important.
For thousands of years, farmers, smallholders and gardeners have saved the seeds from their plants to sell, to swap or to give away to friends and family. That’s what’s saved the beauty and huge range of ‘heirloom’ varieties of fruit and vegetables.
All that may be about to change. On 6th May the European Commission is voting on the introduction of Europe-wide legislation to regulate seeds, which will cover all cereal, fruit and vegetable varieties. All seed will need to be standardised, registered and approved before they can be legally sold, or even given to friends and family. Total control of our food supply will be handed over to large companies that can afford the costs of scientific testing and adherence to regulation.
Please, take the time to write to your Euro MP. All their email addresses are here.
Here is more information on the website of Open Source Seeds – a great organisation promoting a culture of sharing amongst seed-savers, and trying to stop the patenting of seeds. Below is a letter they have drafted to give you some ideas and inspiration.
I am writing to you as I am concerned about the SANCO-sponsored legislation on the licencing and sale of seeds.
I understand that you will not have the opportunity to vote on it as it is being put before the commissioners directly. It seems inappropriate that unelected officials should take such a important decision. Please call for the proposals to be put before our democratically accountable MEP’s.
These proposals would make it impossible to licence or to sell, cultivate or swap thousands of ancient and heritage varieties of seeds, a bank of genetic diversity that has been built up over many generations. Instead they would place seeds and cultivar-development irrevocably in the hands of a few multi-national companies. We would lose the knowledge, experience and diversity of our rich seed heritage in exchange for half-a-dozen bland varieties suited to agro-industrial production, and greater profits for multi-nationals.
As an MEP, I would imagine that you will be concerned about the erosion of rural and local knowledge, resources and genetic diversity that this regulation would represent. It would take away people’s ability to develop their own varieties suited to local conditions, climates, and culinary heritage, and put it in the hands of a few big companies. This would erode the possibilities for people to work their way out of poverty.
As a UK MEP I am sure that you know of the rich UK heritage of local seeds and varieties and the importance they have for our heritage, culture and identity. I appeal to you, to challenge the EU commissioners if this legislation is passed in such an undemocratic way.
I also draw your attention to the costs of policing the legislation. It seems likely that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of individual gardeners and small traders would defy such a ban. Enforcing it adequately would draw huge resources from European states that can ill afford it. If it is presumed that the legislation would not be vigorously enforced, it begs the question: Is it fit for purpose?
The news is that the law went through with some major amendments to allow gardeners and small businesses to grow, save, swap and sell seeds. They wouldn’t have done that without pressure from people like you. See http://open-seeds.org/bad-seed-law/ for more information.
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