Organic Agriculture

, Volume 2, Issue 3–4, pp 173–183 | Cite as

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

  • Thomas F. DöringEmail author
  • Riccardo Bocci
  • Roger Hitchings
  • Sally Howlett
  • Edith T. Lammerts van Bueren
  • Marco Pautasso
  • Maaike Raaijmakers
  • Frederic Rey
  • Anke Stubsgaard
  • Manfred Weinhappel
  • Klaus P. Wilbois
  • Louisa R. Winkler
  • Martin S. Wolfe


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 



We thank Rikke Andersen, Inger Bertelsen, Peter Brinch, Véronique Chable, Robin Fransella, Rob George, Andrew Henderson, Helle Lachmann, Lars Holdensen, Margreet Hofstede, Aki Imaizumi, Bart Kuin, Loes Mertens, Monika Messmer, Gebhart Rossmanith, Andreas Thommen, Lena Tinghuus, Malgorzata Verleyen-Szulc, Andrew Vincent, Bram Weijland, James Winpenny, Jean Wohrer, Robin Wood and Lawrence Woodward for providing inputs in the discussions relating to this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas F. Döring
    • 1
    Email author
  • Riccardo Bocci
    • 2
  • Roger Hitchings
    • 1
  • Sally Howlett
    • 1
  • Edith T. Lammerts van Bueren
    • 3
  • Marco Pautasso
    • 4
    • 5
  • Maaike Raaijmakers
    • 6
  • Frederic Rey
    • 7
  • Anke Stubsgaard
    • 8
  • Manfred Weinhappel
    • 9
  • Klaus P. Wilbois
    • 10
  • Louisa R. Winkler
    • 1
  • Martin S. Wolfe
    • 1
  1. 1.Organic Research CentreBerkshireUK
  2. 2.Associazione Italiana per l’Agricoltura BiologicaRomeItaly
  3. 3.Louis Bolk InstituteDriebergenNetherlands
  4. 4.Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, UMR 5175 CNRSMontpellierFrance
  5. 5.FRB - Centre de Synthèse et d’Analyse sur la Biodiversité (CESAB)Aix-en-ProvenceFrance
  6. 6.BionextZeistNetherlands
  7. 7.ITABParis Cedex 12France
  8. 8.VFL, Knowledge centre for AgricultureAarhus NDenmark
  9. 9.Agency for Health and Food Safety- Institute for SeedViennaAustria
  10. 10.FIBL Deutschland FiBL e.V., Forschungsinstitut für biologischen LandbauFrankfurt am MainGermany

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