As a result of political choices made in the European Union (EU) and the Netherlands in recent years, many things are changing in our immediate environment. Political choices in other countries also have an influence on our company, and in some cases we have to ask for changes to legislation.
One of our wishes, shared by other breeding companies, is to extend the protection period of breeding products – potatoes in particular – in a number of countries. This protection period currently varies from fifteen to thirty years, depending on the national legislation of the individual countries. As universities seem to be focusing less on fundamental research, HZPC would like a general protection period of thirty years in order to be able to carry out its own fundamental research into varieties that are geared to solving the problem of food supplies and the problems in specific regions.
The EU has worked on a new regulation for plant reproductive material (PRM) this year. However, in the spring of 2014, right before the dissolution of the European Parliament, this legislation failed to get through the European Parliament. The European Commission will probably submit a new proposal. The new proposed legislation zooms in more on biodiversity, hobby growers and food safety rather than the protection of the farmer and horticulturist. The purpose of the old legislation was to give that group in particular assurances for good planting stock.
Plant breeders are using original genetic sources. According to new international agreements, these breeders should contribute financially to the countries of origin of those genetic resources. The EU will also ratify these agreements, which means that HZPC will make financial contributions to these countries. It is not yet clear how this will be arranged.
The European seed potato trading merchants have urged the EU to make the nomenclature and standardisation of the classification of seed potatoes more uniform. After years of negotiations, the EU Member States decided to amend the directives for seed potatoes at the beginning of 2014; in future, all countries will work with a uniform system.
In the Netherlands, there has been a political debate on the autonomy of inspection services for sowing seeds and planting material. The proposal from the politicians is to integrate these inspectorates with the Ministry. Since the sixties, these organisations have been run by the sector itself, within the framework of ministerial legislation. HZPC makes a plea for the continuation of the autonomy, as losing it is expected to lead to higher costs for both growers and HZPC.
HZPC deems the closing down of the product boards, another wish of the politicians, to be undesirable. An important task of the Agricultural Board is to administer and control the general regulations for quarantine diseases. The Ministry will have to take over this task when it closes down the product boards if negative consequences are to be avoided.
The EU has enacted legislation on the use of uncertified seed from the own farm, the so-called Farm Saved Seed (FSS). FSS is much used throughout Europe. This is permitted within the standard regulation, provided that licence fees are paid to the owner of the variety that is being used. It is important for HZPC that this legislation is complied with, but this takes up a great deal of time and energy. It is therefore important that EU countries enforce these licence payments properly.