European Commission proposal confusion after latest round of voting

Plant Heritage is warning that the proposed new European legislation has been thrown into confusion this week after the EU Parliament voted yesterday overwhelming to reject the proposal.
The Plant Reproductive Materials regulations, which could endanger many National Plant Collections, numerous nurseries and endanger the survival of many ornamental plants, was rejected by the Parliament in Brussels yesterday amid concerns that it would give the Commission too much power, and leave European countries without any leeway to tailor the new rules to their needs.
The Commission was left reeling and responded saying that, whilst it was prepared to enter discussions to improve the proposal, it was not prepared to withdraw it. As a result Parliament closed the first reading, voting against the Commission’s draft text by 650 votes to 15. Chair of the Agricultural Committee, Paolo De Castro, said the vote showed the depth of Parliament’s dissatisfaction with the Commission’s proposal, which failed to meets its core objectives such as simplifying the rules and promoting innovation.
“We therefore regret that Commission has declined to withdraw this widely-disputed text and come up with a better one. It is clear that the draft new rules must be redesigned to better respect different situations in different member states and bring about real improvements for all producers, consumers, and the environment. We hope member states will be strong enough to follow parliament’s position and reject this unsatisfactory proposal,” Mr De Castro said.
At present it is not known what the outcome of yesterday’s voting means but with no changes made to the proposal at this point in the process it means that it could be much harder for MEP’s and industry campaigners to influence a second reading.
The concern now is that although negotiations will continue in the European Council and amendments will be made, Council has agreed that in principal the regulation is needed, potentially putting the economic viability of many National Plant Collections and nurseries in doubt.
Plant Heritage is grateful to everyone who lobbied MEPs before Christmas. This seems to have had a major impact on their decision yesterday: “As MEPs, who co-legislate with the Council, we want to take full responsibility for this legislation,” said rapporteur Silvestris. “For this reason we cannot decide in a hasty manner on this proposal, which is crucial for many growers’ associations, companies and citizens,” he added.
Referring to these latest developments Plant Heritage Conservation Officer Mercy Morris said that the industry now needed to establish the impact of yesterday’s developments and clarify what could be done moving forwards.
Speaking on the directive Ms Morris said: “It appears to be impossible to predict what will happen next; though it would be very disappointing, in the run-up to the European elections to have the opinions of our democratically elected representatives ignored. I would urge everyone involved to maintain the cooperation between the different areas of UK horticulture that has served us well so far, and be vigilant for future developments”
The current wording of the legislation requires all plant varieties sold in Europe to be listed on an official register thus making it illegal to sell unregistered varieties. At present only 2,000 of the estimated 77,000 cultivars sold in UK are registered, and with an administrative cost of as much as £500 per variety to register, many small nurseries could be forced to close. This would also include a large proportion of our National Plant Collections, many of which are held in large and small nurseries.
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