The law in relation to plant health, plant varieties and seeds is contained in EU, UK and Welsh legislation.
Marketing and certification of agricultural and vegetable seed varieties in Wales
Under EU, UK and Welsh seed legislation, if you want to market certified seed of agricultural and vegetable species covered by the legislation, you can only do so if:
- the species or variety is on a national list,
- the species or variety has been officially certified, and
- you are registered to market that species or variety.
The purpose of this scheme for the marketing of seed is to ensure the production of high quality crops and seed. The seed certification process is intended to be a quality assurance process designed to ensure that specific standards are met in relation to seeds and crops.
The standards to be met are set out in seed marketing regulations made by the Welsh Ministers. Seed which has been certified in accordance with the scheme must be marketed in correctly packed, sealed and labelled packages. The process of certifying seeds is carried out by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) on behalf of the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
The marketing of seeds
The EU has over the last 50 years made a number of Directives on the marketing of seed and plant propagating material. These Directives include:
- Directive 66/401/EEC on the marketing of fodder plant seeds;
- Directive 66/402/EEC on the marketing of cereal seed;
- Directive 2002/53/EC on the common catalogue of agricultural plant species;
- Directive 2002/54/EC on the marketing of beet seed;
- Directive 2002/55/EC on the marketing of vegetable seed;
- Directive 2002/56/EC on the marketing of seed potatoes;
- Directive 2002/57/EC on the marketing of seed of oil and fibre plants;
- Directive 2008/72/EC on the marketing of material for the propagation of the vine;
- Directive 1998/56/EC on the marketing of propagating material of ornamental plants;
- Directive 92/33/EEC on the marketing of vegetable material, other than seed;
- Directive 2008/90/EC on the marketing of fruit propagating material and fruit plants for fruit production;
- Directive 1999/105/EC on the marketing of forest reproductive material.
The Welsh Ministers have been designated by an Order in Council made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 as having the power to take action in relation to certain fields of EU law in relation to Wales to include the phytosanitary field for the protection of public health (see the European Communities (Designation) (No. 2) Order 2008 (SI 2008/1792).
In addition, a number of Orders in Council have been made which designate the Welsh Ministers as having the power to take action in Wales in relation to the CAP (see the European Communities (Designation) (No.3) Order 1999 (SI 1999/2788), the European Communities (Designation) (No. 5) Order 2010 (SI 2010/2690).
The Plant Varieties and Seeds Act 1964 contains powers for the Welsh Ministers to make regulations to regulate transactions in seeds.
In exercise of the powers given to them by the 1964 Act as well their powers to act under section 2(2) of the 1972 Act, the Welsh Ministers have made the Seed Marketing (Wales) Regulations 2012. The 2012 Regulations implement EU Directives in relation to the marketing of fodder plant seed, cereal seed, beet seed, vegetable seed and seed of oil and fibre plants. In addition the 2012 Regulations implement a number of other directives in relation to seeds and plants, to include directives about the botanical names of plants.
The 2012 Regulations set out the various categories of seeds to which the 2012 Regulations apply, imposes requirements in relation to the marketing of seed to include the certification, packaging, sealing and labelling of seeds and makes provision about licences to market seeds. Notably the 2012 Regulations make it a criminal offence to breach the provisions they contain.
The National Lists of Varieties
In order for seeds to be marketed and entered for certification under the 2012 Regulations, the species or variety of seeds have to be listed on a National List or on the EU Common Catalogue. The purpose of the list system is to ensure that new varieties cannot be commercially exploited unless they are genuinely new and constitute an improvement on the existing varieties already on sale.
The Seeds (National Lists of Varieties) Regulations 2001 (SI 2001/3510) give effect throughout the UK to Council Directive 70/457/EEC (OLJ No L225, 12.10.1970, p1) on the common catalogue of varieties of agricultural plant species and those elements of Council Directive 70/458/EEC (OJ No L225, 12.10.1970, p 7) on the marketing of vegetable seeds which require Member States to establish national lists of vegetable varieties.
The 2001 Regulations make provision about National Lists of Plant Varieties prepared and published in the Plant Varieties and Seeds Gazette.
The UK’s National Lists are maintained by the Plant Variety Rights and Seeds Office which is part of the Animal and Plant Health Agency. The EU Common Catalogue is compiled from the National Lists of all of the Member States.
The National Lists are lists of agricultural crop and vegetable varieties approved for certification and marketing in the UK. There are two main lists for plant varieties: agricultural and vegetable.
The national vegetable list is further divided into varieties:
- eligible for certification and marketing as standard or certified seed
- that may be marketed as standard seed (the ‘B’ list)
There are a wide variety of plant pests and diseases which can cause damage to crops and plants if they became established in Wales.
The Plant Health Act 1967 comprises the main plank of UK legislation in relation to the control of the introduction and spread of pests (which include insects, bacteria, fungi and other vegetable and animal organisms, viruses and other agents causing transmissible diseases of agricultural or horticultural crops or of trees and bushes).
In addition, the EU has legislated in relation to the introduction and spread of pests. In relation to Wales, the Plant Health (Wales) Order 2006 (SI 2006/1643 (W.158) was originally made to implement the following EU Directives:
- Council Directive 2002/89/EC amending Directive 2000/29/EC on protective measures against the introduction in the Community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the Community;
- Commission Directive 2004/103 on identity and plant health checks of certain plants, plant products or other objects which may be carried out at a place other than a point of entry into the community or at a place close by and specifying the conditions related to these checks;
- Commission Directive 2004/105/EC determining the models of phytosanitary certificates or phytosanitary certificates for re-export accompanying plants, plant products or other objects from third countries and listed in Council Directive 2000/29/EC;
- Commission Directive 2005/16/EC amending Annexes I to V to Council Directive 2000/29/EC on protective measures against the introduction into the Community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the Community;
- Commission Directive 2005/17/EC amending certain provisions of Directive 92/105/EEC concerning plant passports;
- Commission Directive 2005/77 amending Annex V to Council Directive 2000/29/EC on protective measures against the introduction into the Community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread in the Community;
- Commission Decision 2005/260/EC which comprises Decision No 2/2005 of the Joint Committee on Agriculture set up by the Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation on trade in agricultural products concerning the amendments to the Appendices to Annex 4;
- Commission Decision 2005/870/EC recognising Bulgaria as being free from Clavibacter michiganensis (Smith) Davis et al spp sepedonicus (Spieckerman and Kotthoff) Davis et al and
- Commission Directive 2006/35/EC amending Annexes I to IV to Council Directive 2000/29/EC on protective measures against the introduction into the Community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the Community.
The 2006 Order imposes restrictions and requirements on relevant material imported into Wales from third countries, including material coming via another country in the European Community where it has been agreed to inspect that material in Wales.
Since it was made, the 2006 Order has been amended on a regular basis to implement new Council Directives introducing control measures in relation to a variety of diseases.