Oh, cool: EU now trying to criminalize unregistered seeds and plants

The European Union, you might have heard, has some pretty serious economic-and-debt problems going on, but don’t you dare accuse them of neglecting the little things. They’ve found the time (and, presumably, the money and resources necessary for the added bureaucracy and enforcement) to attempt to expand further their regulation of the farming industry, as well as outlaw certain seeds that haven’t been explicitly tested and approved. They say they’re just trying to streamline and better the existing regulations, but not everyone’s convinced:

The European Commission is reforming the European Union’s plant and animal health legislation in a bid to enhance food safety across the bloc. But critics say that the measures, proposed on Monday, threaten seed diversity and favor large agrochemical businesses.

The commission has proposed five pieces of legislation to replace and clarify existing regulation, a whopping 70 legal texts governing the European Union’s food chain. The package includes rules to better prevent and eradicate pests and animal diseases across the union and to toughen up controls and penalties against food fraud. …

But groups like the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and the Soil Association say that the proposal perpetuates criteria for “distinct, uniform and stable” varieties that favor large companies producing homogeneous seeds. Besides, critics claim that annual registration fees would be prohibitive for small companies, pushing them out of the E.U. market. “The plans play directly into the hands of larger corporations that prioritise mass-production of monoculture seed varieties, at the expense of diversity,” José Bové, a Green member of the European Parliament from France, said in a statement.

Hey, check that out — large and entrenched agribusiness interests are getting specially-interested treatment from big government, just like in the United States! We have even more in common than we thought.

The “citizen’s summary” of the legislation reads thusly:

 What’s the issue?
•Seeds, young plants, tubers and other types of “plant reproductive material” are fundamental to our future food supplies and, more widely to the productivity, diversity, and quality of all plant crops – in agriculture, horticulture, vineyards and forestry.
•EU legislation on how these items are traded needs to be simplified, updated and brought into line with other EU policies, by:
-improving registration procedures – to ensure different varieties can be reliably identified and, in the case of agricultural crops, are suitable for cultivation and use
-strengthening certification and inspection, to protect the identity, quality and health of plant reproductive material
-cutting red tape and costs by making the rules more flexible and efficient across the EU making the rules more compatible with policy aims such as sustainable intensification of agriculture and biodiversity.

What is being proposed?

The new law will :
•replace 12 Directives with a single Regulation
•grant more responsibility and flexibility to businesses dealing in plant reproductive material
•enhance biodiversity and opportunities for niche markets through less stringent requirements for old varieties and heterogenous plant material, and for small local producers
•steer plant breeding towards environmental aims
•streamline administrative procedures to support innovation
•establish a level playing field by introducing the principle of cost recovery.

This much central planning on a market as indispensable as food, and they wonder why they’ve got economic problems. This looks like the type of nanny-statism run amok that would make even Mayor Bloomberg proud.

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