Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion is backing calls for more action to protect the diversity of seeds used by farmers and growers in the EU after a visit to Ryton Organic Gardens in Warwickshire.

Euro MP visits Ryton Organic Gardens and backs campaign for seed diversityDr Bennion, a farmer and agronomist who took over as a regional MEP earlier this year, visited the award-winning gardens, the home of the charity Garden Organic and met their Chief Executive Myles Bremner.

The Gardens are also the home of the Heritage Seed Library (HSL), which aims to conserve and make available over 800 vegetable varieties that are not widely grown by commercial growers. Phil toured the gardens and discussed the work of the HSL with its manager Neil Munro.

Phil Bennion said: "Organic gardeners, growers and farmers have a key part to play in helping maintain a sustainable environment. Genetic and species diversity is essential and not an optional extra and something I want to see all aspects of EU policy do more to support.

"I was very impressed by the gardens and in particular the work of the Heritage Seed Library, which is vital if we are to maintain bio-diversity, which is an essential part of a sustainable environment.

"Garden Organics suggested that there might be scope for an EU-backed research project to explore best practice in protecting and conserving seed varieties and ways this work can be better co-ordinated.

"I think this is an excellent proposal as the work being done here is of immense public benefit, but so far relies entirely on private benefactors and volunteer goodwill."

Garden Organic has recently highlighted concern that the EU Marketing Directive is being applied too strictly in preventing the sale or exchange of historic unregistered seed varieties among specialist gardeners and growers.

Phil added: "I can understand why so many organic growers are concerned by the way the Marketing Directive has been applied. It is now being reviewed, it is important that we balance the rights of business to protect the results of their innovation with the imperative that we protect bio-diversity, which is not an optional extra.

"I support patenting rules which do not involve patenting plants themselves but the techniques that led to the development of new varieties, which is not the same thing."

ENDS

Note:The work of the Heritage Seed Library is explained here: http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/hsl/hsl.php
A French seed firm Kokopelli recently took a test case to the European Court of Justice arguing that the Marketing Directive was imposing unfair restrictions on the free trade of historic seed varieties, but lost.
The press release highlighting Garden Organics' concern at the case is here: http://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/news/press_story.php?id=841
The ECJ ruling is at: http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2012-07/cp120097en.pdf
Pic: Lib Dem Phil Bennion MEP at Ryton Organic Gardens CEO Myles Bremner (right) and Neil Munroe.