by Liz Bennett
The way we are being pushed and squeezed by regulations that govern every facet of our life we will soon only be able to defecate when our allotted time slot comes around.
The European Commission is currently drawing up a new law to regulate the sale of all seeds, plants and plant material.
The latest draft of the law is even more restrictive than the regulations that we have at the moment.
Although we have had a system like this for many years, there have been much simpler and cheaper options for what are considered ‘amateur varieties’ for home gardeners, and the rules have never been strictly enforced in the UK.
The EU wants to get rid of these simpler and cheaper rules for ‘amateur’ seed, and make sure that every country enforces the rules 100%.
Although they say there will be exceptions, in current drafts of the law these are very, very limited.
The effect of this new legislation will be to massively limit the choice of vegetable varieties available to home gardeners.
This is because if you are selling seed to farmers, you can expect to sell hundreds of tonnes of seed every year, so it is worth the cost of registering the variety. But if you are selling to gardeners, even the biggest seed companies will be selling a few kilos of seed at most, sometimes just a few hundred grams of more unusual varieties.
It just doesn’t work if they have to pay thousands of pounds to register that variety! So only seed designed for farmers will get registered and be legally sellable.
Unfortunately, varieties suitable for farmers often aren’t appropriate for home gardeners and allotment growers. For example: farmers usually want all of their produce to come ready at the same time, so that they can harvest and sell a whole fields worth.
Home gardeners usually want their crops to mature over a longer period - we don’t want to eat all our vegetables on one day!
Another example: farmers generally don’t want to grow climbing peas, as they need supports and can’t be harvested mechanically. Lots of home gardeners prefer tall pea varieties, as they are more productive in a small space. There are hundreds of examples like this - the needs of gardeners and farmers are very different.
The problem is very simple:
Happily, for the time being at least there is a way around this. You start a seed club, and that way a seed company cannot be prosecuted for selling to the public… they are not they are selling to their members only!
Real Seeds, a non-profit heirloom seed company in the UK have started their own seed club. For the princely sum of one penny a year, which is deducted from your first order, you are a member of the club and can therefore buy your seeds without them getting prosecuted. I say them because it is not illegal to buy heirloom seeds for veggies not on the approved list, but it is illegal for anyone to sell them commercially to the public at large.
For those interesting in seed saving click here for a very good explanation of how to get started.
I should just point out that I have no connection with The Real Seed Company, other than as a customer, sorry, club member…
I am told by a friend that Heirloom Organics is a reputable US company that sell genuine heirloom seeds, I can’t say one way or the other as I have never brought seed from them, but I do trust my informant.
Get together with friends and start a seed swap circle to increase the varieties of seeds that you hold. Diversity will become a very important aspect of future food growing and the more diverse your seed stocks the better.