After three years of tough legislative negotiations, the new European regulation for organic production was adopted on April 2018 by the European Parliament in plenary session in Strasbourg.
It was supposed to enter into force on January 1st 2021, but was finally postponed until the beginning of 2022, in order to allow the European Commission to draft the numerous delegated and implementing acts which are provided by the regulation, and to give more time to competent authorities and stakeholders to prepare for its application.
Among various interesting changes regarding for example the extension of the regulation scope or the introduction of precautionary measures to avoid the contamination of organic production by chemical residues, the new Regulation on organic production is a big step forward for biodiversity, allowing the marketing of two new categories of seeds.
The "organic heterogeneous material", which essentially corresponds to the thousands of traditional varieties currently banned for sale by the effect of the "official catalog".
The "organic heterogeneous material" will be exempted from registration and technical certification of seed lots. To place it on the market, it will be sufficient to introduce a simple prior declaration, providing a summary description of the agronomic and phenotypic characteristics of the material, to the competent administration. The latest will have 3 months to comment on the file admissibility and request additional information, after what the application will be deemed accepted.
The Commission is expected to adopt a delegated act, in order to specify the conditions for the marketing of the “organic heterogeneous material”, such as packaging and labelling rules and more particularly the minimum quality standards for seed lots that will apply (definition of the material, specific purity, germination rate, health quality, etc.).
The “organic varieties suitable for organic production”, resulting from varietal creation programs specifically adapted to the needs and constraints of organic farming.
The "organic varieties suitable for organic production" will be placed on the market under derogatory conditions which will be fixed subsequently by the Commission within the framework of a "temporary experiment" of 7 years, aiming at evaluating the characteristics of the new varieties and consequently adapting the horizontal legislation on seeds.
These new seed varieties categories won’t replace the F1 hybrid types already available on the market: they will enrich the current seed supply. However, they will have to be systematically "preferred" by organic growers whenever they are available for a specific plant variety.
After 22 years of widespread use of non-organic seeds within organic agriculture, the new Regulation on Organic production will make it possible to meet the principles of organic farming (high level of biodiversity) and the obligations contained in the specifications for organic farming (seeds from organic quality) as well as to offer to organic farmers material much better suited to their agronomic needs.
The compromise also expressly authorizes organic farmers to produce and use their own seeds.