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Question and Answer Guide: Plant Variety and Seeds

Question and Answer Guide: Plant Variety and Seeds

Updated: 20/04/2021

Contents

Key Points

This guidance is being issued jointly on behalf of Defra, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and DAERA Northern Ireland.

Terminology:

  • United Kingdom (UK) refers to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (NI).
  • Great Britain (GB) refers to England, Scotland and Wales.
  • GB is used because the rules for marketing of seed and other propagating material and for variety listing will differ from NI after the transition period.

Summary of changes:

  • Varieties with EU plant variety rights on 31 December 2020 will continue to be protected in the UK for their remaining lifespan. They will be protected under UK legislation.
  • EU to GB: Normal international rules will apply to EU seed and other propagating material marketed in GB. For most crops, this means the variety must be on the GB Variety List or Northern Ireland Variety List and where applicable, certified under Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) rules. EU seed potatoes are marketable in England and Wales (but not Scotland) for six months only, since 31 December 2020.
  • GB to EU: The EU have formally granted equivalence to the UK for agricultural seed (excluding production of vegetable seed), fruit and vegetable propagating material, and forest reproductive material (FRM) (excluding tested material). The EU have also accepted a case to lift the prohibition on ware potatoes. This will mean that exports or movements to the EU and NI can continue, provided that plant health requirements are met.
  • GB to EU, seed potatoes: Defra submitted an application on 12 January under Article 44 of the EU Plant Health Regulation requesting that the EU recognise GB’s regulations as equivalent, and for the EU to authorise imports of seed potatoes. This application was rejected by the EU. Following this, three letters were sent to the EU, challenging this response, and requesting a reconsideration of the Article 44 case. However, the Commission are maintaining that they are not prepared to reconsider our application in the absence of a commitment from the UK to dynamically align with EU regulations.
  • Following the meeting of the Co-Chairs of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee on 11th February, there was an agreement that any future approaches should be based on the essential or substantial equivalence of the UK’s and EU’s respective regimes. Given the UK’s current regime aligns substantially with the EU, we will therefore continue to press on with our request that prohibitions are lifted. Defra are acutely aware of the issues that continued prohibition of export to seed potatoes will cause the industry, and we are currently holding meetings with stakeholders and devolved administrations as we plan next steps.
  • NI to GB: Seed will continue to move freely from Northern Ireland (NI) to Great Britain (GB) under Northern Ireland’s existing rules and labelling. Northern Ireland will continue to apply EU legislation under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
  • GB to NI: The EU have formally granted equivalence to the UK for agricultural seed (excluding production of vegetable seed), fruit and vegetable propagating material, and forest reproductive material (FRM) (excluding tested material). DAERA have confirmed that GB seed can be marketed in Northern Ireland, under the rules of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The EU has not included certified vegetable seed or tested material of FRM in the equivalence decisions, which means that certified vegetable seed and tested material of FRM from GB will not be able to be marketed in Northern Ireland. DAERA and the UK Government are engaging with the EU to establish the reason for the omission and to push for vegetable seed production and tested material of FRM to be included in any equivalence decisions.
  • Standard seed of vegetable GB-NI and GB-EU: It is Defra’s understanding that standard seed of vegetable can continue to be marketed into NI and the EU provided that it is accompanied by a suppliers label stating “EU rules and standards” and a phytosanitary certificate. Please check the section on marketing in the EU for further details.
  • The UK will only accept EU Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS) reports for species where there is no UK testing capability, and providing they are of comparable quality to UK DUS reports.  

You can find out more detail about these changes and how they might impact your business on the Government webpages that can be found at the end of this document.

Plant Variety Rights

How do Plant Variety Rights (PVR) work?

Plant variety rights are a form of intellectual property right giving the holder exclusive control over commercialisation of propagating material and the ability to collect royalties. They are available for all genera and species of plants and help encourage investment in breeding new varieties.

How do existing EU rights work?

EU legislation provides a framework for plant variety rights in all Member States. EU plant variety rights are managed by the Community Plant Variety Office (CPVO), an EU agency.

There is no change in protection in the 27 EU Member States. In the UK, varieties with EU rights granted by the end of the transition period have been given protection under UK legislation, without rights holders being required to do anything.

Was there a cost for UK businesses in bringing existing EU rights under UK legislation?

There were no costs for businesses. The process was an administrative one being carried out by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) under Defra’s guidance and the assistance of Scottish Government, Welsh Government and DAERA NI.

Is the duration of protection of the UK right the same as for the EU right?

Yes. The remaining duration in the UK is calculated from the date the EU right was granted. All the relevant information held on the CPVO database has been copied into the UK’s database.

What about EU PVR applications made before the end of the transition period, but not granted by the CPVO?

For varieties with an application for EU PVR made by 31 December 2020, but not yet decided by CPVO, an application for UK rights made within six months of 31 December, will be given the same priority date as the EU application and the UK will take over the EU DUS report. The normal UK application and DUS takeover fees will apply. Applications can be made after this six-month period, but the EU DUS report will not necessarily be taken over and the priority date will be the date of the UK application.

How do I apply for UK rights for a new variety?

For new varieties, separate protection will be required in the UK and the EU to achieve the same geographic coverage:

  • For protection in the UK, an application would need to be made to APHA, following the normal process and payment of fees for UK plant breeders’ rights.
  • For protection in the EU, the application would need to be made to CPVO.

What period applies for first commercialisation and novelty?

Novelty will be retained if first commercialisation in the UK is no more than one year before an application for UK rights. Where first commercialisation is outside of the UK, it can be up to four years before an application for UK rights or six years for vines and trees. The exception is for varieties with an undecided EU application on 31 December 2020 and a subsequent UK application within six months. In this case, novelty is retained if first commercialisation in the EU or UK was no more than one year before the date of application for EU rights or the date of priority if earlier.

What are the fees for UK PBR?

Fees for UK PBR can be found on GOV.UK PBR. The UK operates a policy of full cost recovery. Anticipating an economy of scale from an increased number of applications, the administration fee has been reduced from 1 January 2021.

Who makes UK PBR decisions?

The protocols and procedures have been strengthened for UK PBR applications and a decision-making process is underway to take account of the increased volume and complexity expected after the transition period. Decisions and the process are the responsibility of the Controller of UK Plant Breeders’ Rights.

What IT system will the UK use for applications for UK PBR?

All applications should be made using UPOV’s online PRISMA system. Guidance for PRISMA can be found at  https://www.upov.int/upovprisma/en/index.html.

For UK rights, do businesses outside the UK require a UK agent?

A UK address will be required for applications for UK PBR. For varieties with EU rights on 31 December and given a corresponding right under UK legislation, a UK address will not be required before 1 January 2024.

For EU rights, do UK businesses require a procedural representative based in the EU?

EU PVR legislation requires that an applicant is domiciled in the EU or has a procedural representative in the EU.

Common Catalogue and National List

How does National Listing work in the EU?

For the main agricultural and vegetable crops, and amenity grasses, a variety must be registered on the National List of an EU Member State before seed can be marketed. Once on a National List, a variety is added to the EU Common Catalogue making it marketable across the EU.

National Listing requires two types of testing: Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS) for all crops and Value for Cultivation and Use (VCU, performance testing) for agricultural crops.

What happened to the UK National List and Common Catalogue on 31 December 2020?

The UK National List was deleted from the Common Catalogue on 31 December 2020, so a variety must now be listed in one of the 27 Member States to be marketable in the EU.

What effect has the Northern Ireland Protocol had on UK National Listing?

Due to the terms of the NI Protocol, the UK National List will be sub divided into two separate lists, the GB Variety List (covering England, Scotland and Wales) and the Northern Ireland Variety List. Initially, these lists will be made up of all the varieties on the EU Common Catalogue from the end of the transition period. Going forward, applications for the NI Variety List will be combined with applications for the GB Variety list with decisions for Great Britain made by Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government and for Northern Ireland by DAERA. The aim is to keep these lists aligned.

For a variety to be marketed in Northern Ireland it must be on the Northern Ireland Variety List or the EU’s Common Catalogue and to be marketed in Great Britain it must be on the GB Variety List or the Northern Ireland Variety List. Due to the terms of the NI Protocol, varieties solely on the EU Common Catalogue may also be marketed in Northern Ireland but not Great Britain.

Are Common Catalogue varieties marketable in the UK?

Varieties must be on the GB Variety List or the Northern Ireland Variety List to be marketable in GB. Common Catalogue varieties will continue to be marketable in Northern Ireland, but not GB.

Is there any mitigation for the GB Variety Listing requirement?

An administrative process was carried out in 2019, followed by a second process in autumn 2020, to add Common Catalogue varieties to the UK National List. Many businesses used these opportunities, to add a large number of varieties in total.

Does GB Variety Listing apply to all the same species as the EU and will this be reviewed?

The UK has taken over or have transposed all EU legislation frozen at the point the transition period ended. The list of regulated species may be reviewed at some point in the future.

Does the maintainer of a listed variety have to be in the UK?

No, the maintainer of a listed variety does not have to be in the UK. Maintenance can be carried out in a country granted equivalence and under the responsibility of the persons responsible for the maintenance of the variety. Therefore, the maintainer of a listed variety can be in the UK or in a country granted equivalence. You can find a list of countries with species the UK will accept as meeting equivalence for variety maintenance here.

Further information on choosing a maintainer is available here.

How do the UK administrations monitor and enforce the marketing of varieties that are not listed?

The UK administrations will continue to enforce the marketing regulations as at present. 

What are the fees for GB and Northern Ireland variety listing?

Fees for variety listing can be found on GOV.UK PBR. The UK operates a policy of full cost recovery. Anticipating an economy of scale from an increased number of applications, the administration fee has been reduced from 1 January 2021.

Marketing in the UK

What are the marketing requirements in the UK?

GB seed production, certification and marketing continues in England, Scotland and Wales under national legislation. Northern Ireland continues to apply EU legislation under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Defra, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and DAERA agreed an approach to accepting EU seed and other propagating material to ensure supply for farmers and growers. EU, Swiss and EEA country material is marketable in GB for two years following the end of the transition period (except for seed potatoes) under the normal international rules for certification where they exist. Where there is a listing requirement, the variety must be on the GB or Northern Ireland Variety List, and where there is an OECD scheme, seed and forest reproductive material must be certified under OECD rules and for agricultural seed have an ISTA Orange International Certificate.

EU seed potatoes are marketable in England and Wales until 30 June 2021 only and provided the variety is on the GB or Northern Ireland Variety List.

Defra have published authorisations for equivalence on the Plant Health Portal of EU member states, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Seed and other propagating material from the EU will continue to be marketable in Northern Ireland under existing EU labelling, certification and variety listing rules.

Why the requirement for OECD certification and ISTA certificates?

Following the end of the transition period, GB treats seed from the EU in the same way as seed from other countries. This means following the rules of OECD schemes, which are internationally recognised and facilitate equal treatment. The OECD labelling and certificate, together with the ISTA Orange International Certificate, will show that seed meets standards for variety identity, variety purity and seed quality equivalent to GB standards.

At what point can seed be marketed after applying for GB Variety Listing?

Seed cannot be marketed until the variety is on the GB Variety List (or Northern Ireland Variety List). The exception is test marketing under an authorisation for not yet listed varieties, where an application for listing has been made but testing has not been completed. After the transition period, these arrangements will continue, but will only apply to marketing in GB of varieties with an application for GB or NI listing.

Is vegetable seed of not yet listed varieties authorised in EU 27 Member States marketable in the UK?

For test marketing in GB, there must be an application for GB or Northern Ireland listing and a corresponding authorisation. EU authorisations will continue to be recognised in Northern Ireland.

What changes have there been for marketing of fruit propagating and planting material?

For fruit, EU propagating and planting material is marketable in GB through unilateral recognition of EU material as equivalent. EU labelling is recognised.

Does a sample need to be provided for imports of EU seed greater than 2kg?

From 1 January, imports of seed from the EU are treated in the same way as seed from the rest of the world. This means that a sample must be provided to the relevant seed certification authority for imports greater than 2kg.

Please submit the appropriate forms for all third country seed imports over 2kg to APHA, the forms are available here.

Table of marketing requirements for EU seed and other propagating material in GB (plant health requirements also apply)

Crop Group

Marketing Requirements

 

 

Agricultural seed (except seed potatoes)

 

 

Agricultural seed must be OECD certified and have an ISTA Orange International Certificate. The variety must be on the GB or Northern Ireland Variety List.

Seed potatoes

EU seed potatoes are marketable in England and Wales only until 30 June 2021. The variety must be on the GB or Northern Ireland Variety List.

Vegetable seed and propagating and planting material

 

Certified vegetable seed is required to meet OECD seed scheme rules.

Standard seed and propagating and planting material do not have an internationally recognised scheme in operation in GB or the EU, so in GB, can currently be marketed under existing EU labelling requirements, provided it can be traced to a UK address.

The variety must be on the GB or Northern Ireland Variety List.

Fruit plant and propagating material and planting material

 

EU material can be marketed in GB under existing EU labelling requirements, provided the material can be traced to a UK address.

Fruit propagating material does not have an internationally recognised scheme.

Ornamental species

 

The UK will continue to apply its light touch approach to marketing of ornamental plant propagating material, with the requirements being met through plant health controls.

 

Forest Reproductive Material (FRM)

Forest Reproductive Material must meet OECD scheme requirements, with some minor exceptions where simpler conditions will apply.

Marketing seed in the EU 

Am I able to export seed and other propagating material to the EU?

The EU have formally granted equivalence to the UK for agricultural seed (excluding production of vegetable seed), fruit and vegetable propagating material, and forest reproductive material (FRM) (excluding tested material).

For seed potatoes Defra submitted an application on 12th January under Article 44 of the EU Plant Health Regulation requesting that the EU recognise GB’s regulations as equivalent, and for the EU to authorise imports of seed potatoes. This application was rejected by the EU. Following this, three letters have now been sent to the EU, challenging this response, and requesting a reconsideration of the Article 44 case. However, the Commission are maintaining that they are not prepared to reconsider our application in the absence of a commitment from the UK to dynamically align with EU regulations.

Following the meeting of the Co-Chairs of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee on 11th February, there was an agreement that any future approaches should be based on the essential or substantial equivalence of the UK’s and EU’s respective regimes. Given the UK’s current regime aligns substantially with the EU, we will therefore continue to press on with our request that prohibitions are lifted. Defra are acutely aware of the issues that continued prohibition of export to seed potatoes will cause the industry, and we are currently holding meetings with stakeholders and devolved administrations as we plan next steps.

The EU have accepted a case to lift the prohibition on ware potatoes. This will mean that exports or movements to the EU and NI can continue, provided plant health requirements are met.   

What if a sale was agreed before the end of the transition period, but the seed or other propagating material was not moved to the EU until after 31 December 2020?

If seed or other propagating material was lawfully on the market in the UK or EU before the end of the transition period, it can continue to be marketed until it reaches the end user in either the UK or EU. It is the supplier’s responsibility to have documentary evidence that material was on the market, which at the minimum means an offer for sale. It must also have been in a finished, marketable state, which for seed with specific labelling requirements we understand to mean first sealing date no later than 31 December. This is without prejudice to any plant health requirements. The European Commission’s readiness notices for stakeholders give an explanation from the EU’s perspective.

 

Crop Group

Marketing Requirements

 

 

Agricultural seed (except seed potatoes)

 

 

 

Marketing in the EU

The EU have formally granted equivalence to the UK for agricultural seed. Before you export agricultural seed from GB to the EU, your variety will need to:

  • be on the EU Common Catalogue
  • be certified under OECD rules, if there is an OECD scheme
  • have an ISTA Orange International Certificate

Marketing in NI

GB seed can be marketed in Northern Ireland under OECD rules.

Seed potatoes

 

Marketing in EU and/or NI

It is not possible to market seed potatoes since 1 January 2021.

 

Vegetable seed and propagating and planting material

Marketing in the EU and/or NI

The EU have formally granted equivalence to the UK for GB vegetable propagating material (this does not include certified vegetable seed).

Standard seed of vegetable can continue to be marketed into the EU and NI provided that it is accompanied by a supplier’s label stating “EU rules and standards” and a phytosanitary certificate.

It is Defra’s understanding that EU member states may require an EU address on the supplier’s label, it is the suppliers responsibility to check the receiving country’s requirements.

The EU has not included certified vegetable seed in the draft equivalence Decision, which means that certified vegetable seed from GB will not be able to be marketed in Northern Ireland or the EU. DAERA and the UK Government are engaging with the EU to establish the reason for the omission and to push for certified vegetable seed to be included in any equivalence decision.

 

Fruit plant and propagating material and planting material

Marketing in the EU and/or NI

The EU have formally granted equivalence to the UK for fruit plant and propagating material. GB fruit plant and propagating material can be marketed in the EU and NI.

 

Ornamental species

 

Marketing in the EU

Ornamental seed and propagating material can be marketed into the EU, provided that it meets plant health requirements.

It is the responsibility of the exporter to ensure the labelling and quality assurance requirements are met for the receiving member state.

The variety must have EU PVR, or be registered in any EU member state or be commonly known before September 2012.

Marketing in NI

Ornamental seed and propagating material can continue to be marketed into NI, provided that it meets plant health requirements.

It is the responsibility of the exporter to ensure the labelling and quality assurance requirements are met.

The variety must have one of the following:

  • have UK or EU PVR,
  • be registered on the NI National List or be registered in any EU member state
  • or be commonly known before September 2012.

Forest Reproductive Material (FRM)

 

Marketing in the EU

The EU have formally granted equivalence to the UK for Forest Reproductive Material (FRM). FRM can be marketed into the EU provided OECD scheme requirements are met (with some minor exceptions where simpler conditions apply).

The EU has not included tested FRM in the equivalence decision, which means that tested FRM from GB is not marketable in the EU. The UK Government are engaging with the EU to establish the reason for the omission.

Marketing in NI

GB forest reproductive material can be marketed in Northern Ireland.  

The EU has not included tested FRM in the equivalence decision, which means that tested FRM from GB is not marketable in NI. The UK Government are engaging with the EU to establish the reason for the omission.

 

The Northern Ireland Protocol

Terminology:

  • United Kingdom (UK) refers to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (NI).
  • Great Britain (GB) refers to England, Scotland and Wales.
  • GB is used because the rules for marketing seed and other propagating material and for variety listing differ from NI.

Can I market GB seed and other propagating material into NI?

The EU have formally granted equivalence to the UK for agricultural seed (excluding production of vegetable seed), fruit and vegetable propagating material, and forest reproductive material (FRM) (excluding tested material). DAERA have confirmed that GB seed can be marketed in Northern Ireland, under the rules of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The EU has not included certified vegetable seed in the Decision, which means that vegetable seed produced in GB cannot be marketed in Northern Ireland. DAERA and the UK Government are engaging with the EU to establish the reason for the omission and to push for vegetable seed production to be included in any equivalence decision.

Standard seed of vegetable can be marketed into the EU and Northern Ireland provided that it is accompanied by a supplier’s label and a phytosanitary certificate.

For seed potatoes, Defra submitted an application on 12th January under Article 44 of the EU Plant Health Regulation requesting that the EU recognise GB’s regulations as equivalent, and for the EU to authorise imports of seed potatoes. This application was rejected by the EU. Following this, three letters have now been sent to the EU, challenging this response, and requesting a reconsideration of the Article 44 case. However, the Commission are maintaining that they are not prepared to reconsider our application in the absence of a commitment from the UK to dynamically align with EU regulations.

Following the meeting of the Co-Chairs of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee on 11th February, there was an agreement that any future approaches should be based on the essential or substantial equivalence of the UK’s and EU’s respective regimes. Given the UK’s current regime aligns substantially with the EU, we will therefore continue to press on with our request that prohibitions are lifted. Defra are acutely aware of the issues that continued prohibition of export to seed potatoes will cause the industry, and we are currently holding meetings with stakeholders and devolved administrations as we plan next steps.

The EU have accepted a case to lift the prohibition on ware potatoes. This means that exports or movements to the EU and NI can continue, provided that plant health requirements are met.

GB material lawfully on the market on or before 31 December (see above) can be marketed in NI until it reaches the final consumer. This is without prejudice to plant health requirements.

Why has the UK agreed to add the three missing directives to the Northern Ireland Protocol?

The EU proposed several changes to Annex 2 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to be addressed in the treaty under the powers provided by the Withdrawal Agreement, which includes a mechanism for correcting errors, omissions and deficiencies, including to the Northern Ireland Protocol. The UK and the EU have therefore agreed to add the three missing directives (Marketing of fodder plant seed (Council Directive 66/401/EEC), Marketing of propagating material of ornamental plants (Council Directive 98/56/EC), and Marketing of vegetable propagating and planting material (Council Directive 2008/72/EC)) to Annex 2 of the Northern Ireland Protocol. This ensures that we can fully protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK’s internal market. The EU have formally granted equivalence to the UK for agricultural seed (excluding production of vegetable seed), fruit and vegetable propagating material, and forest reproductive material (FRM) (excluding tested material).GB seed covered by the marketing directives included in the Northern Ireland Protocol can therefore be marketed in Northern Ireland.

Can I market NI seed and other propagating material into GB?

Yes, the Government has committed to unfettered market access for movement of goods from NI to GB, this includes seed and other propagating material. Material is marketable under existing EU rules.

Can seed and other propagating material move freely from EU to NI, and onto the GB market?

EU material lawfully on the market on or before 31 December 2020 (see above) can move freely from the EU to NI and onward to GB until it reaches the final consumer. There is also, and will remain, unfettered access for Northern Ireland goods to the rest of the UK market. The basis on which businesses may qualify for unfettered access is clearly set out in legislation passed last year.

Under the provisions for unfettered market access for Northern Ireland Qualifying Goods, material certified and labelled under the EU’s rules for its single market can move onwards into GB.

There are concerns about backdoor access to the GB market for material moving from the EU via NI, including varieties not on the GB or Northern Ireland Variety Lists. The proposals for Northern Ireland Qualifying Goods are for simple rules for six months, to be replaced by more detailed requirements. Further information will be issued in due course.

DUS Testing

The EU stopped accepting UK DUS reports from the beginning of the transition period.

The UK is reliant on EU testing for a large number of species where we do not have DUS testing capability. The UK will continue to accept EU reports for these species, for variety listing and for plant breeders’ rights, provided they are of comparable quality to UK testing. The UK will also accept EU DUS test reports for the agricultural, amenity and vegetable species where the UK does have testing capability, provided that for variety listing, the test was started before 31 January 2020, and for PBR where there was an undecided application for EU PVR on 31 December 2020 followed by an application for UK PBR by 30 June 2021.

For all other applications for UK variety listing or PBR for species where the UK has testing capability, a UK DUS test is required.

See Annex 1 on the Plant Health Portal for the full list of DUS species tested by NIAB, AFBI and SASA

How does DUS work in the EU?

Through CPVO’s quality assurance, the EU has harmonised DUS testing and facilitated mutual recognition and exchange of reports between Member States and CPVO.

Is the UK seeking an agreement for the UK and EU to mutually recognise DUS reports?

The UK has submitted a request to the CPVO requesting mutual recognition of DUS reports. The EU have confirmed that they will not consider the UK’s request until Free Trade Agreement negotiations have progressed. Further information will be published in due course.

How has the UK maintained the quality of its DUS testing?

The UK has maintained its high level of participation in UPOV, the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, the global treaty for PBR which as part of its function develops DUS test guidelines. APHA and the organisations carrying out UK DUS testing have developed a quality assurance process to replace CPVO’s.

Seed and Ware Potatoes

The EU have accepted a case to lift the prohibition on ware potatoes. This will mean that exports or movements to the EU and NI can continue, provided that plant health requirements are met.   

For seed potatoes, Defra submitted an application on 12 January under Article 44 of the EU Plant Health Regulation requesting that the EU recognise GB’s regulations as equivalent, and for the EU to authorise imports of seed potatoes. This application was rejected by the EU. Following this, three letters have now been sent to the EU, challenging this response, and requesting a reconsideration of the Article 44 case. However, the Commission are maintaining that they are not prepared to reconsider our application in the absence of a commitment from the UK to dynamically align with EU regulations.

Following the meeting of the Co-Chairs of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee on 11th February, there was an agreement that any future approaches should be based on the essential or substantial equivalence of the UK’s and EU’s respective regimes. Given the UK’s current regime aligns substantially with the EU, we will therefore continue to press on with our request that prohibitions are lifted. Defra are acutely aware of the issues that continued prohibition of export to seed potatoes will cause the industry, and we are currently holding meetings with stakeholders and devolved administrations as we plan next steps.

Seed and ware potato exports to the Canary Islands and countries outside of the EU

In relation to phytosanitary standards and trade with the EU, the Canary Islands are treated as a third country. As such, exports to the Canary Islands are not affected by the certification equivalence and plant health issues, with current export processes and requirements continuing as they do now. But it should be noted that the Canary Islands, and countries outside of the EU, have a sovereign right to change their import requirements whenever they feel appropriate and we cannot guarantee that exports will not be disrupted in this context.   

Seed and ware potato imports into the UK from the EU

England and Wales are accepting EU seed potatoes as equivalent for certification for six months after 31 December 2020. Imports of EU seed and ware potatoes are not restricted on plant health grounds, although must meet the requirements for pre-notification and phytosanitary certificates.

Plant Health Requirements  

What are the plant health requirements for importing and exporting seed?

Please refer to gov.uk guidance here

RoW (Rest of World)

Exports:

Exports to third countries outside of formal trade agreements (FTAs) should be unaffected.

Additional guidance on trade agreements is available here.

Imports:

Have there been any changes to marketing of seed from third countries?

All third countries currently recognised by the EU as equivalent for seed certification continue to be recognised as equivalent by the UK (GB).

For all countries recognised by the EU as equivalent, there are no changes to requirements on seed imported into GB. The EU’s Council Decision (2003/17/EC) on field inspections carried out in third countries on seed producing crops and on the equivalence of seed produced in third countries has been retained in domestic law. This means that all countries recognised by the EU as equivalent for certification at the end of December 2020 continue to be recognised as equivalent by GB.

Whereas the requirements remain the same, the labelling should now include “GB Rules and Standards” instead of “EU Rules and Standards”. OECD certification and an ISTA Orange International Certificate or equivalent will continue to be required. If the seed certified under the OECD Seed Schemes is imported and intended for marketing in GB then the variety will need to be on either the GB or NI Variety List and the OECD List.

If seed is destined for import into Northern Ireland, the current EU requirements should be met and the seed label will need to state “EU rules and standards”. Varieties imported into NI would need to be on the OECD List and for marketing in NI would need to be on the NI Variety List or the EU’s Common Catalogue.

If the seed is being imported under the OECD Seed Schemes and not marketed then the variety would need to be on the OECD List.

The UK will make its own, separate decisions for any new countries requesting equivalence.

Have there been any changes to marketing of seed in GB from EU member states, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway?

The UK has granted equivalence recognition to EU member states, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway, where that country is a member of the relevant OECD seed scheme.

We are reciprocating the requirements and conditions in the EU’s decision on equivalence 2003/17/EC. This means that seed imported into GB from these countries must be certified under OECD rules and have an ISTA Orange International Certificate. The label must state “GB rules and standards”. If the seed is intended for marketing in GB, the variety will need to be on the GB or NI Variety List as well as the OECD List.

Devolved Administration Guidance

If your business is based in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales you can find additional guidance below.

Scotland: https://www.sasa.gov.uk/eu-exit-guidance

Northern Ireland: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/plant-health-plantstimber-brexit-qa

Wales: https://gov.wales/preparing-wales-brexit/environment-agriculture-and-food