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Brussels, 28 June 2010

Commission proposal on marketing of wild types of grass seeds boosts efforts to protect the EU's biodiversity

Efforts to conserve the natural environment and protect biodiversity in the EU received a boost, last Friday, after the Member States endorsed a Commission proposal providing for the placing on the market of certain types of wild plant seeds from conserved habitats. In particular, the proposal –adopted by the Standing Committee on Seeds and Propagating material for Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry– relaxes stringent rules to allow the marketing of wild types of plant seeds, known as "preservation seed mixtures."

These seeds are used in Member States for landscaping, wildlife gardening and habitat restoration and conservation. They are collected from natural or semi-natural grasslands, which are designated by the Member States in accordance with the Habitat Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) as special areas conservation and thus worthy of preservation. In the EU, techniques have been developed to collect, clean and resow these seeds in agricultural land so that the seed of wild type of plants can be multiplied.

Until now, it was not possible to market this type of seeds because their components did not comply with some of the general EU marketing rules for seeds, e.g. on proven varietal identity and purity. Therefore, a derogation to the rules, as provided in the Commission's proposal, was deemed necessary.

Under the new system, the producers need to obtain an authorisation for the marketing of their seed mixtures and the seed has to originate from a habitat type worthy of preservation and from a conserved habitat. The production and marketing takes place in the region of origin. In addition, a maximum quantity is fixed for the marketing of these preservation seed mixtures. To make sure that this maximum quantity is respected, Member States shall require producers to notify the quantities of preservation mixtures for which they intend to apply for authorisation.

The traceability of preservation mixtures will be ensured through appropriate sealing and labelling.

Other areas of national, regional or local importance giving equal guarantees of conservation as in the Habitat Directive may be designated as well. Such areas are considered as source areas for the "preservation seed mixtures." These mixtures should also be used in the same habitat type as that of the seeds' collection area to facilitate the restoration and conservation of the original habitat type.

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