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Document 52004AE1207

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC, 2002/54/EC and 2002/57/EC as regards examinations carried out under official supervision and equivalence of seed produced in third countries’COM(2004) 263 final - 2004/0086 CNS

OJ C 74, 23.3.2005, p. 55–56 (ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, IT, LV, LT, HU, NL, PL, PT, SK, SL, FI, SV)
OJ C 74, 23.3.2005, p. 29–30 (MT)



Official Journal of the European Union

C 74/55

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directives 66/401/EEC, 66/402/EEC, 2002/54/EC and 2002/57/EC as regards examinations carried out under official supervision and equivalence of seed produced in third countries’

COM(2004) 263 final - 2004/0086 CNS

(2005/C 74/10)

On 29 April 2004, the Council decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 37 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the abovementioned 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 6 July 2004. The rapporteur working without a study group was Mr Bros.

At its 411th plenary session of 15 and 16 September 2004 (meeting of 15 September), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 85 votes to one, with three abstentions.

1.   Introduction


In the period 1998-2003 the Commission authorised the Member States to carry out a temporary experiment on seed sampling and seed testing carried out on the basis of the Community legislation on the marketing of seed. Analysis of the results showed that:

under specified conditions there could be a simplification of the procedures for official seed certification without any significant decline in the quality of the seed compared with that achieved under the system for official seed sampling and seed testing;

field inspections under official supervision could be extended to all the crops for the production of certified seed;

the proportion of the areas to be checked and inspected by official inspectors could be reduced.


The changes to the rules applicable to seed moving in international trade (OECD system) were adopted. The scope of the Community seed equivalence in respect of seed harvested in third countries could therefore be extended to all the various kinds of seeds meeting the characteristics and the examination requirements laid down in the various Community directives on the marketing of seeds.


The Committee wishes to examine the Commission proposal in the light of the development of the rules proposed but also with a view to maintaining high quality requirements for seed and with regard to plant-health issues.

2.   The Commission proposal


The Commission proposes to extend to 31 March 2005 the experiment on inspections under official supervision (Decision 98/320/EC) in order to keep the Community conditions concerning the marketing of seed produced pursuant to that decision, pending the application of the new provisions (implementation of directives).


At the same time Directives 66/401/EEC (marketing of fodder plant seed), 66/402/EEC (marketing of cereal seed), 2002/54/EC (marketing of beet seed) and 2002/57/EC (marketing of seed of oil and fibre plants) must be adapted to the conclusions of the experiment and the following changes incorporated:

the introduction of an examination under official supervision for the various categories of seed;

the definition of the examination under official supervision (inspections in the field or in a seed testing laboratory authorised by the national body responsible for seed certification);

sampling for the purposes of certification can be done officially or under official supervision. The arrangements for seed sampling under official supervision are set out (qualifications, checks on sampling practices and sanctions);

the equivalence regime may be extended to seed harvested in third countries and complying with Community characteristics and requirements (inspection and certification system).

3.   General comments


The main objective of the Commission proposal is to simplify supervisory procedures in the seed sector. The delegation of supervision is already practised in many Member States. The Committee therefore supports the Commission's initiative. However, it would point out that the Commission should have submitted a new directive containing all the constituent parts of the four directives concerned, which would have made the changes easier to understand and would have ensured that the measures in question were coherently harmonised.


The Commission's decision concerning an experiment in inspections under official supervision expires on 31 July 2004. There will therefore be a legal void during the co-decision procedure on the Commission's legislative proposal. The Committee therefore calls on the Commission to change its Decision 98/320/EC in order to prevent such a legal void occurring.


The Commission also proposes that the experimental phase be extended to 31 March 2005 in order to allow the changes to the directives concerned to be implemented. The Committee would like to point out that this deadline is too short, given the time required for implementation, approximately ten months. The Committee therefore proposes that the deadline be extended to 31 July 2005.


The Committee is not in a position to express a view on the appropriateness of the technical data concerning conditions for field inspections (e.g. the change in the sampling rate) or on the number of laboratory samples required. The Committee would stress, however, that a common denominator is needed for all the Member States. The data expressed in the form of a range should therefore, rather, be expressed as a minimum sampling percentage.


The delegation of official supervision to authorised persons will make for more effective procedures. The Commission must ensure that the systems for supervising certification remain effective. Currently, the Commission is carrying out Community-wide comparative tests and exchanges of practice. The amount earmarked for these activities (between € 500,000 and € 600,000) is insufficient in the light of the objective. The Committee calls on the Commission to allocate additional financial resources to these measures aimed at harmonisation of supervisory systems.


The Committee would point out that, during the accession negotiations with the new Member States, transitional periods were agreed for varieties not included in the catalogue, as they do not meet Community criteria. The Committee draws the Commission's attention to these varieties which may be marketed only in the countries concerned (Cyprus, Latvia, Malta and Slovenia). This derogation period should be backed by additional guarantees, e.g. regarding sample sizes and the presence of wild oats (Avena fatua).


The Committee draws the Commission's attention to disputes concerning the marketing of batches of poor-quality seed in the Member States. The completion of the single market will also require traceability of batches of seed for producers and effective coordination between the certification agencies and the seed producers.


With regard to extending the scope of equivalence to third countries, thus complying with OECD rules, the Committee points out that the Commission will have to negotiate reciprocal equivalence with the third countries. Equivalence must be based on identical standards. Similarly, equivalence of supervisory systems for maintenance must be required in order to ensure an identical level of quality.

4.   Conclusions


The Committee endorses the Commission's proposal, which is conducive to simplification of supervisory procedures, while not reducing the required level of quality for seed production. However, the Committee stresses that the Commission must continue to analyse the performance of supervisory systems.


From a legislative point of view, the Committee stresses that the Commission should have taken the opportunity to present a legislative proposal bringing together all the directives dealing with the marketing of cereal seed, fodder plant seed, beet seed and seed of oil plants.


The Committee considers that the extension requested to 31 March 2005 will allow insufficient time for the implementation of the directives in national law. It is therefore proposed that the extension be to 31 July 2005.

Brussels, 15 September 2004.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee