Published: 30 September 2013
Urgent Action needed at the EU
A proposed piece of legislation in the pipeline from Brussels will have a dramatic impact on everyone who grows and sells ornamental plants, from local nurseries to the largest garden centres.
We must all take action to prevent the proposed changes to the legislation being passed by a group of politicians who know little of the impact of their actions. 
Garden conservation charity, Plant Heritage, the HTA and many other industry groups are seeking urgent action over proposed EU legislation changes which could endanger many National Plant Collections and threaten the survival of many ornamental plants.
These changes could appear on the 'Proposal for a Regulation on the Production and Making Available on the Market of Plant Material [Plant Reproductive Material law]'. This is designed to rationalise and simplify current legislation, and offer greater protection to consumers. 
However, the proposed new wording of this legislation would now require that all ornamental 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 privately and rely on the sale of ornamental plants for their survival.
Referring to the latest proposals Plant Heritage Conservation Officer Mercy Morris said she is concerned that the legislation could prevent conservation work undertaken by many of the charity’s National Collection Holders, and thus prevent threatened ornamental plant material from being propagated and shared for the future.   
Speaking on the directive Ms Morris said “It seems from our perspective that an assumption has been made that the only bodies that carry out conservation work are Botanic Gardens or networks developed purely for that purpose. However, an organisation such as Plant Heritage (and our counterparts in Europe) which encompasses many small commercial operators, who spend vast amounts of their time on conservation work, has not been considered at all.”
She continued “In many cases the conservation of cultivars is only possible on any level because of some form of commercial involvement on the part of the Collection Holder. As the legislation stands at present without the ability to sell plants their conservation activities could be curtailed.” she adds.

The National collection of Heuchera owned my Mr and Mrs Fox at their nursery in Cheshire would be one such business under threat from the proposed changes.

Plant Heritage is urging people to lobby their MEP* and ensure they are made aware of the danger that this proposed change to the legislation poses and ask that the wording is amended to ensure the survival of small nurseries and National Collection Holders.

They are asking people to write requesting that the regulation is not applied to ornamental plants, as well as stressing the risk the current wording poses to the industry and plant conservation. We would also request that the definition of ‘organisations’ in the documentation involved in conservation is broadened to include commercial operators, thus protecting National Plant Collections and nurseries.  

*To see a list of MEP’s contact details see the Plant Heritage website link:
Chris Allen, Editor has drafted the following letter and has sent it to the MEP’s listed below who sit on the AGRI Committee requesting an early reply to his questions -
The Gardening
Letter to MEP’s
September 2013

Dear .....

Re. Proposed EU legislation of a Proposal for a Regulation on the Production and Making Available on the Market of Plant Material [Plant Reproductive Material law] 

I understand that you are aware of the above proposal but fear you may be oblivious to the impact
It will have across the horticultural industry if it is passed in its current form.
The long term effect on many plant species and their conservation will be highly detrimental.
There are over seventy five thousand plant cultivars that would require registration if you allow this legislation through.

I would be grateful if you could answer the following points for myself and the readers of The Gardening

  1. What is the horticultural purpose / benefit of the proposed legislation?
  2. How long would the registration process take and what would be ‘allowed’ to happen to plant cultivars during / prior to their individual registration?
  3. What would happen to plant cultivars not registered, would your proposal allow them to become extinct?
  4. How will unregistered plants be monitored and what action will be taken with them, will there then be another law passed to destroy them because they do not comply with the new legislation?
  5. Where will the registration fees be paid and what will this money be used for?
  6. Which horticultural groups / organisations have been consulted with during the drafting of this proposed legislation?
  7. How do you think this will help economic activity in ornamental horticulture by restricting sales so much?
  8. How can this possibly help the stated aims of the EU and Government to maintain and enhance bio-security?

If you allow this piece of EU legislation to be passed in its current form, covering ornamental plants, your actions or lack of action will be directly responsible for the demise of many plant cultivars, along with those small businesses that will be unable to conform to it. With conservation and small business development high on the political agendas I can only hope that common sense will result in the modification of this proposed regulation.
This letter is being published in The Gardening with a list of its recipients, followed hopefully by their positive responses.
I await your early response to the questions above.

Yours sincerely

Chris Allen

The Gardening Times believes it very important that we all do our bit to inform our politicians of the unintended consequences of this legislation.

*MEP’s to be lobbied are: Stuart Agnew (UKIP), Julie Girling (Con), George Lyon (Lib Dem), Richard Ashworth (Con), John Bufton (UKIP), Jill Evans (Plaid Cymru), Anthea McIntyre(Con), Brian Simpson (Lab), and Robert Sturdy (Con), who all sit on the AGRI Committee. 
Reported by Chris Allen  

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