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Document 52001AE0926

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC and 66/403/EEC on the marketing of fodder plant seed, cereal seed and seed potatoes"

OJ C 260, 17.9.2001, p. 39–41 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)


Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC and 66/403/EEC on the marketing of fodder plant seed, cereal seed and seed potatoes"

Official Journal C 260 , 17/09/2001 P. 0039 - 0041

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the "Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC and 66/403/EEC on the marketing of fodder plant seed, cereal seed and seed potatoes"

(2001/C 260/07)

On 24 April 2001 the Council decided to consult the Economic and Social Committee, under Article 37 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the above-mentioned proposal.

The Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 21 June 2001. The rapporteur was Mr Scully.

At its 383rd plenary session of 11 and 12 July 2001 (meeting of 12 July 2001) the Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion unanimously.

1. Introduction

1.1. Council Directive 66/401/EEC(1) on the marketing of fodder plant seed, Council Directive 66/402/EEC(2) on the marketing of cereal seed and Council Directive 66/403/EEC on the marketing of seed potatoes provide for the carrying out of temporary experiments.

1.2. The results of the experiments have already shown that, marketing of seed in bulk to the final consumer under specified conditions has no adverse effects on the quality of seed.

1.3. On the basis of the results of the experiments the present proposal also amends Council Directive 66/403/EEC(3) on the marketing of seed potatoes since the same conclusion also applies to seeds of other plants including potato.

1.4. Commission proposals to amend Article 10 of Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC and 66/403/EEC relate to the packaging and marketing of certified seed.

1.5. The primary objective of the proposal is to allow for derogation from the current packaging and labelling requirements of Articles 8, 9 and 10 of Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC and 66/403/EEC. This derogation will allow for bulk marketing of certified seed.

2. General comments

2.1. Bulk marketing of seed

2.1.1. The marketing of seed in bulk confers particular advantages both on producers and growers. A substantial saving in cost in relation to packing as well as greater efficiency are recognised advantages. The environmental benefit of a reduction in waste packaging material must also be noted. Producers who use bulk marketing of certified seed can therefore avail of these advantages to reduce costs. By implication, producers who do not use bulk marketing may be at a cost disadvantage. It is therefore possible for the larger growers in Member States who obtain derogation under the proposed changes, to use bulk handling of certified seed to competitive advantage.

2.2. Quality control

2.2.1. The regulations governing production of Certified seed control the quality of the seed to be closed for marketing, in respect of seed purity, trueness to type, germination capacity and plant health. They are fundamental to the success of any Certification protocol.

2.2.2. Crop production and quality control criteria for the production of crops for closing and marking as Basic seed, Certified seed and Commercial seed are defined in Articles 2 to 7 of Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC and 66/403/EEC. These directives remain unchanged.

2.2.3. Article 8 of Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC and 66/403/EEC state that packages must be sufficiently homogeneous, closed, and marked for marketing. The proposed amendment to Article 10 of these Directives allows for a simplification of Article 8 to allow for bulk delivery of seed.

2.2.4. Delivery of seed in bulk under specified conditions has been found not to affect the quality of delivered seed, in a temporary experiment carried out between 1994 and 2000 in six Member States(4). In these test experiments the seed containers from which the seed was to be marketed were finally certified in accordance with Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC and 66/403/EEC as appropriate. The containers used by the final consumer into which the seed was delivered were sampled and then closed.

2.3. Quality Assurance

2.3.1. Closing and sealing The closing, sealing and marking of a seedlot is an important mechanism in controlling the authenticity of a delivered seedlot or consignment and the integrity of the certification system. It prevents deliberate or accidental interference in the certification process before delivery to the final consumer. Articles 8, 9 and 10 of Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC and 66/403/EEC provide that packages for marketing are closed and marked in a manner that cannot be interfered with, and an officially sealed label attached to the package. Any change will have implications both in terms of plant health, traceability and ultimately on the credibility of the Seed Certification scheme.

2.4. Consumer confidence

Consumer confidence should not be affected where bulk containers are closed, sealed and marked to conform to Articles 9 and 10 of Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC and 66/403/EEC.

2.5. Plant health

The final sample may attest to the quality of the bulk delivery in terms of trueness to type, purity of seed and germination, as will any certification process carried out on the crop grown from the delivered seed.

2.6. Traceability

Official sealing of labels to the package for marketing as provided for in Article 10 of Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC and 66/403/EEC, created a transparent and traceable protocol.

3. Specific comments

3.1. Since the relative advantage is obtained by way of derogation received by a Member State from a Council Directive, it could be inferred that the granting of a derogation, to a Member State, confers an unfair trade advantage on some producers in that Member State.

3.1.1. All Member States can apply for derogation, however the proportion of producers within a Member State who can avail of bulk marketing will vary considerably from State to State. Thus the competitive advantage may inadvertently be transferred to a Member State by virtue of its capacity to market seed in bulk. This will depend on the extent of bulk marketing of Certified seed between Member States. It is not clear if this derogation allows a producer in one Member State to deliver in bulk to a final consumer in another Member State. Should this occur, the ESC would invite the Commission to clarify whether both Member States need to have derogation.

3.2. Article 8 makes no reference to the size of a seedlot closed for marketing, furthermore there is no biological or physiological reason why a marked seedlot should be of a particular size, other than that it is homogeneous in nature.

3.2.1. The size of a closed seedlot or consignment for marking should have no effect on the level of infective material in the seedlot nor on the level of purity and trueness to type of the seed, since these factors are governed by quality control procedures prior to and at closing.

3.2.2. The size of the closed seedlot or consignment for marking should not cause to occur any change in the rate of deterioration of a closed consignment provided that the closed consignment is stored in accordance with correct storage conditions and environment for that category of seed.

3.3. The ESC sees the need for further assurances as to how a simplified system, which might imply that the bulk container is not necessarily sealed, guarantee the authenticity of the certified seed on delivery.

3.3.1. To address this issue, Article 2(e) of the test experiment provides for final sampling of the container used by the final consumer. This provision effectively delays the final sampling and closing of seed consignments until after transfer to the final consumer (although final certification occurs before delivery). The status of this final sampling is not clear should a difference arise between this sample and the final certification prior to delivery. In the event of a discrepancy a protocol should be agreed to resolve this issue. Any interference after final certification of the bulk consignment should be manifest in the final random sample after delivery. The accuracy and reliability of this final sample will need to be as secure as that used prior to sealing any conventional package for marketing of certified seed.

3.4. The absence of specific criteria for hygiene, closing and sealing of bulk delivery containers may have implications for plant health in view of the fact that bulk containers may be re-used. Containers will need to be certified free of contamination from harmful organisms and be closed in a manner that will not allow accidental contamination in transit to the final consumer. The certification authority will need to be confident that certified seed delivered in bulk will be as certified on any plant health label associated with the delivery label.

3.4.1. A procedure with no obligation to attach an official label to a bulk delivery in a manner that cannot be interfered with may diminish confidence and traceability in the Certification Scheme, especially where the bulk delivery is not sealed.

3.5. The ESC supports a provision in Article 2(d) of the test experiment that the seed be marketed directly to the final consumer. This will reduce the risk of accidental or deliberate interference in the consignment and of incidental discrepancies.

3.5.1. However, the provision for marketing directly to the final consumer, as well as notification to appropriate certification authority of quantities of seed marketed in bulk as provided for in Article 2 of the test experiment, may offer some, but not complete, security with regard to certification and traceability.

3.5.2. It needs to be clarified whether the final consumer (farmer) can offer seed delivered in bulk for re-sale. Further clarification is needed on whether it is intended that the "final consumer" is one who only produces a crop from the delivered seed. It is not clear if more than one "final consumer" can receive seed from the same bulk consignment. This has implications for both disease transfer and traceability. Legal guarantee

A clear legal framework will have to be established so that, in the event of damage occurring due to bad seed quality or mishandling, the farmer knows precisely which body is responsible for the damage caused in terms of either direct damage or lost profits, with a view to making a legal claim for compensation. The body against which the farmer can instigate legal proceedings must always be the one which produces the seed and is responsible for its certification, i.e. the first link in the chain; this body can in turn also take action against the other bodies in the chain.

4. Conclusions

4.1. The final consumers' confidence in the quality of the delivered seed will be conditioned by the assurance that the seed delivered has been officially closed and sealed and accurately labelled. Seed delivered in bulk and not deemed to be closed and sealed may give rise to a less secure Certification protocol.

4.2. Member States will need to be confident that simplification of the closing and marking of seed for marketing will not diminish the confidence producers have in the Seed Certification Scheme and will not create a competitive advantage for some producers. Measures will also need to be in harmony with international trade provisions for the marketing of Certified seed.

4.3. In conclusion, having regard to the above-mentioned remarks, the Committee is ready to support the present Commission proposal.

Brussels, 12 July 2001.

The President

of the Economic and Social Committee

Göke Frerichs

(1) OJ 125, 11.7.1966, p. 2298. Directive as last amended by Directive 98/96/EC.

(2) OJ 125, 11.7.1966, p. 2309. Directive as last amended by Directive 1999/54/EC.

(3) OJ 125, 11.7.1966, p. 2320. Directive as last amended by Decision 1999/742/EC.

(4) Report of the Temporary Experiment on the Marketing of Seed in Bulk to the Final Consumer (Commission Decision 94/650/EEC, 9.9.1994).