European Union has introduced a new legislation to replace all the existing seed regulations

2013 EU seed law

The new “Plant Reproductive Material Law” regulates all plants. It contains immediate restrictions on vegetables and woodland trees. (It also creates powers that can be used to restrict any other plants in the future, but the details of how this will work are left for later.)

Under the new law, it will immediately be illegal to grow, reproduce or trade any vegetable seed or tree that has not been tested and approved by a new “EU Plant Variety Agency”, who will make a list of approved plants. Moreover, an annual fee must also be paid to the Agency to keep them on the list, and if not paid, they cannot be produced.

In reality, it seems to be mostly about the globalised agribusiness seed industry needing new laws to cope with gene patents and plant patents, and to be able to register ‘their’ industrial varieties or genes safely and securely before selling them in large quantities to industrial farmers, who might otherwise save the seed and sell it or use it themselves without paying a royalty fee.

he law starts from the premise that all vegetables, fruit and trees must be officially registered before they can be reproduced or distributed. This obviously is a major restriction on seed availability, as there are all sorts of costs in both time and money dealing with the bureaucracy of a central Plant Variety Agency. Then, after making that the basic rule, there are some exceptions made in limited cases (which could of interest for india):

  • Home gardeners will be permitted to save and swap unregistered seed without breaking the law.
  • Small organisations can grow and supply unregistered vegetable seed – but only if they have less than 10 employees
  • Seedbanks can grow unregistered seed without breaking the law (but they cannot give it to the public)
  • There might be easier (in an unspecified way) rules for large producers of seeds suitable for organic agriculture etc, in some (unspecified) future legislation – maybe.
the bill has to be approved by the parliament

EU proposes to ban insecticides linked to bee decline

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/31/eu-proposes-ban-insecticides-bee

Three neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticides would be forbidden across the continent for two years

Damian on bees : Bees flys over a sunflower in a sunflower field in Lopburi province

Three neonicotinoids would be forbidden from use on corn, oil seed rape, sunflowers and other crops across Europe for two years. Photograph: Narong Sangnak/EPA

Insecticides linked to serious harm in bees could be banned from use on flowering crops in Europe as early as July, under proposals set out by the European commission on Thursday, branded “hugely significant” by environmentalists. The move marks remarkably rapid action after evidence has mounted in recent months that the pesticides are contributing to the decline in insects that pollinate a third of all food.

Three neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticides, which earn billions of pounds a year for their manufacturers, would be forbidden from use on corn, oil seed rape, sunflowers and other crops across the continent for two years.

It was time for “swift and decisive action”, said Tonio Borg, commissioner for health and consumer policy, who added that the proposals were “ambitious but proportionate”.

The proposals will enter EU law on 25 February if a majority of Europe’s member states vote in favour. France and the Netherlands are supportive but the UK and Germany are reported to be reluctant.

“It’s important that we take action based upon scientific evidence rather than making knee-jerk decisions that could have significant knock-on impacts,” said the environment secretary, Owen Paterson. “That’s why we are carrying out our own detailed field research to ensure we can make a decision about neonicotinoids based on the most up-to-date and complete evidence available.”

Luis Morago, at campaign group Avaaz which took an anti-neonicotinoid petition of 2.2m signatures to Brussels, said: “This is the first time that the EU has recognised that the demise of bees has a perpetrator: pesticides. The suspension could mark a tipping point in the battle to stop the chemical armageddon for bees, but it does not go far enough. Over 2.2 million people want the European commission to face-down spurious German and British opposition and push for comprehensive ban of neonicotinoid pesticides.”

Keith Taylor, Green party MEP for South East England MEP, said: “For too long the threat to bees from neonicotinoids has been dismissed, minimised or ignored. It is, therefore, good to see the European commission finally waking up. Bees have enormous economic value as pollinators and are vital to farmers. Let us hope that we’re not too late in halting the dramatic decline in their population.”

Scientific evidence has mounted rapidly since March 2012, when two high-profile studies found that bees consuming neonicotinoids suffered an 85% loss in the number of queens their nests produced and showed a doubling in “disappeared” bees who got lost while foraging. Neonicotinoids have been fiercely defended by their manufacturers, who claim there is no proof of harm in field conditions and by farming lobbies who say crop yields could fall without pesticide protection. Some neonicotinoid uses have been banned in the past in France, Italy, Slovenia and Germany, but no action has yet been taken in the UK. A parliamentary committee is currently investigating the impact of neonicotinoids on all pollinators and found evidence raising “serious questions about the integrity, transparency and effectiveness of EU pesticides regulation“.

On 16 January, the European Food Safety Authority, official advisers to the EC, labelled the three neonicotinoids an unacceptable danger to bees feeding on flowering crops and this prompted the proposal produced on Thursday. If approved by experts from member states on 25 February, it would suspend the use imidacloprid and clothianidin, made by Bayer, and thiamethoxam, made by Syngenta, on crops that attract bees. Winter cereals would be excluded, because bees are not active at that time, and the suspension would be reviewed after two years. The European commission is also considering banning gardeners from using these neonicotinoids, although B&Q, Homebase and Wickes have already withdrawn such products from their garden centres in the UK.

“This hugely significant proposal promises a first, important step on the road to turning around the decline on our bees,” said Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton. “The UK government must throw its weight behind it. The evidence linking neonicotinoid chemicals to declining bee populations is growing. It is time to put farmers and nature before pesticide company profits. Ministers must act quickly to support safe and effective alternatives to chemical insecticides.”

Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation

The European Environment Agency has come up with the part 2 of their path breaking report “Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation”. ( 800 pages)  with a summary report of 48 pages . The part 1 of this report was released in 2001 to global acclaim. This report and case studies is peer reviewed . According to the EEA (http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/late-lessons-2):
The 2013 Late lessons from early warnings report is the second of its type produced by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in collaboration with a broad range of external authors and peer reviewers. The case studies across both volumes of Late lessons from early warnings cover a diverse range of chemical and technological innovations, and highlight a number of systemic problems. The ‘Late Lessons Project’ illustrates how damaging and costly the misuse or neglect of the precautionary principle can be, using case studies and a synthesis of the lessons to be learned and applied to maximising innovations whilst minimising harms.
All versions of the report are available here: summary, full report,e-book, kindle form : http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/late-lessons-2
 
The GM chapter is chapter 19 ( pages 490- 517 only 20 pages all of us must read it) which compares GM technology the top down approach and agro-ecological approaches as bottom up. It goes thru case studies of whether Ht crops are suitable for global south, gives figures of GM area, the problems with confusing ‘lack of evidence of harm” with “ëvidence of lack of harm”, strangle hold of corporations, the lack of public sector and wiping out indigenous seeds , skill and so on after debating the agro-ecological approaches   and concludes that
“The early warning, or perhaps late lesson, to be heeded here is that if one follows the top-down, usually technologically oriented, approaches to innovation,the desired outcomes for addressing food insecurity will not be achieved. Top-down approaches will most likely fail to deliver on the
large promises of food security and alleviation of poverty, mainly because these approaches contribute to a feedback cycle that concentrates resources, knowledge, and influence as witnessed in the seed and agrichemicals sector (Adi, 2006; De Schutter, 2009; Fernandez-Cornejo, 2006; Howard, 2009).Through this power, top‑down providers can artificially homogenise both the conception of the problem to be solved and the solutions — such as GM crop plants — they propose. All too often questioning the rationality of the approach gets lost in the background of the unquestioning discussion over the use of the approach (Pavone, 2011 and see discussion in Boxes 19.1 an 19.2). Perhaps greater reflection and social deliberation into why and for whom agricultural innovations should be produced is needed if we are truly going to follow more sustainable pathways in the production of food and fibre. In the path ahead, societies In the path ahead, societies will have to make more conscientious choices of how to define and shape innovation to produce solutions that are appropriate for meeting global challenges related to agriculture. Bottom-up approaches are proving capable of getting sustainable, participatory and locally adapted solutions into the hands of those that need them most (Altieri, 2011a; Emerging issues | Hungry for innovation: pathways from GM crops to agroecology 510 Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation De Schutter, 2011), but are incapable of flourishing where invention is limited to what can be easily described by prevailing IP instruments. Change the directions, distribution and diversity of innovation, and you change the world.”
Devi