Organic Agriculture

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 173-183

First online:

The organic seed regulations framework in Europe—current status and recommendations for future development

  • Thomas F. DöringAffiliated withOrganic Research Centre Email author 
  • , Riccardo BocciAffiliated withAssociazione Italiana per l’Agricoltura Biologica
  • , Roger HitchingsAffiliated withOrganic Research Centre
  • , Sally HowlettAffiliated withOrganic Research Centre
  • , Edith T. Lammerts van BuerenAffiliated withLouis Bolk Institute
  • , Marco PautassoAffiliated withCentre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175 CNRSFRB - Centre de Synthèse et d’Analyse sur la Biodiversité (CESAB)
  • , Maaike RaaijmakersAffiliated withBionext
  • , Frederic ReyAffiliated withITAB
  • , Anke StubsgaardAffiliated withVFL, Knowledge centre for Agriculture
    • , Manfred WeinhappelAffiliated withAgency for Health and Food Safety- Institute for Seed
    • , Klaus P. WilboisAffiliated withFIBL Deutschland FiBL e.V., Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau
    • , Louisa R. WinklerAffiliated withOrganic Research Centre
    • , Martin S. WolfeAffiliated withOrganic Research Centre

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Organic agriculture regulations, in particular European regulation EC 889/2008, prescribe the use of organically produced seed. For many cultivated plants, however, organic seed is often not available. This is mainly because investment in organic plant breeding and seed production has been low in the past. To bridge the gap between organic seed supply and demand, national and European regulations define certain circumstances under which organic producers are permitted to use non-organically produced seed. While the organic sector currently depends on these concessions, they also threaten to impede a further increase in the demand for organic seed, thereby potentially restraining present and future investment in organic seed production and plant breeding. We review the current status of the organic seed regulations framework by analysing key issues such as the role of the national derogation regimes, the role of Expert Groups, databases and seed prices. Key points are that (a) the situation of the organic seed sector has improved over the last few years; however, (b) reporting on organic seed to the EU by different countries needs to be harmonised; (c) the success of the organic seed sector depends critically on the implementation and improvement of national Expert Groups; and (d) to protect genetic diversity, the use of local varieties and landraces should not be impeded by organic seed regulations.


Conservation varieties Europe Organic Policy Regulation Seed