New Legislative Framework for Seed Potatoes: Examining the EU's Proposed Plant Reproductive Material Regulation

In July 2023, the European Commission proposed a significant overhaul of the regulations governing plant reproductive material (PRM) within the European Union.
EU Potato regulation

This new legislation, if adopted, would have a direct impact on seed potatoes, including how they are produced, registered, and ultimately utilised by European farmers.

Simplifying the Framework:

Currently, EU rules on plant reproductive materials are spread across separate directives. The European Commission's proposed regulation aims to simplify these rules by consolidating them into a single, unified framework. While the core principles of variety registration and PRM certification remain, the new legislation introduces several key changes relevant to seed potatoes.

Ensuring Quality and Sustainability:

One of the primary goals of the new legislation is to strengthen the quality and sustainability of all PRM, including seed potatoes. Registration will continue to require confirmation of a variety's distinctiveness, uniformity, and stability (known as VCU registration). Additionally, the proposal emphasises testing for characteristics that promote a more sustainable agri-food system. This ensures farmers have access to seed potatoes that not only perform well but also contribute to responsible agricultural practices. This will also help farmers identify the right seed potato varieties resistant to certain plant health diseases.

Boosting Innovation and Competitiveness:

The proposed regulation aims to streamline the regulatory process, making it easier for the industry to adopt new technologies and production methods. This could lead to the development of innovative seed potato varieties with improved disease resistance, higher yields, or better adaptation to changing climatic conditions.

The Road Ahead:

In April 2024, the European Parliament adopted its position on the Commission's proposal. As explained in their report, this position advocates for measures that benefit farmers and encourage biodiversity preservation. This includes allowing farmers to exchange limited quantities of any type of PRM with each other. However, some have questioned this approach as it could lead to parallel markets, with one segment having to comply with all regulations while the other enjoys certain flexibility.

The EU Council is still debating the Commission's proposal. Once Member States reach a joint position, all three institutions (Commission, Parliament, Council) can begin trilogue discussions to agree on the final legislation. This new Regulation will significantly impact the breeding and trading of seed potatoes in the future.