O rganic agriculture has been regulated in the European Union (EU) since 1991 when the first provisions laying down minimum standards for the internal market were adopted. Initially, the legal framework only covered plants and plant products. However, subsequent revi- sions were later introduced covering animals and animal products; it has been constantly evolving ever since to include more detailed rules on issues like labelling and imports, the extension of pro- visions to cover wine and aquaculture as well as establishing the now widely-recognised EU organic ‘leaf’ logo for pre-packed products. WHY IT MATTERS The European Commission has spent three years discussing a proposed regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products. The main aim is to remove obstacles to the sustainable development of organic production in the EU. ESA’s advocacy efforts and persistence paid off as the new regulation offers some improvements to the seed sector. The Association succeeded in retaining those elements that were supported by the seed sector, and removing most of the elements that did not. Significant growth in both production and consumer demand in recent years has seen organic farming develop from a relatively anarchic sector into a still small, but well-established and profes- sional industry. To keep up with such develop- ments, the Commission’s 2014 proposal for a reform had as its main aims the need to ensure a level playing field between Member States, to improve consumer confidence, and to ensure clear rules and the removal of “regulatory obstacles” to the further growth of the sector in the EU. The proposal thus had three principal areas of focus: strengthening and harmonising production rules, improving the trade regime, and improving the control system. The ‘harmonisation’ elements of the proposal related to tackling areas of incon- sistency between Member States, including mixed farms and pesticide residues. Modifications were introduced to ensure a gradual move towards a compliance-based import regime and changes to the control system foresaw bringing all organic operators within the scope of official controls on the agri-food chain. Even though the organic agri-food chain starts with seeds, the Commission’s proposal for reform lacked a specific vision for the seed sector and/or meaningful suggestions on how to actively promote the production and use of organic seed by breeders and farmers respectively. There is a broad understanding within the sector that the availability of organic seed differs among species and that for certain species there is still insufficient organic seed available on the market; there are also too few incentives to encour- age farmers, and there is limited will to enforce the use of organic seed. However, the Commission’s preparatory documents did not acknowledge this or include any data on the supply, demand, or flow of organic seed within the EU. No novel solutions were discussed to improve the situation, not even ‘traditional’ solutions, such as proposing transi- tional financial support to develop the sector. Harmonisation, simplification and consumer confidence THE IMPACT OF THE NEW EU REGULATION ON ORGANIC PRODUCTION FOR THE EU SEED SECTOR. BY: KATE WILSON 28 I EUROPEAN SEED I EUROPEAN-SEED.COM