Seed Legislation and agrobiodiversity: conservation varieties

Riccardo Bocci


European seed policies and legislation have contributed to fostering a system in which fewer varieties are traded in ever bigger markets in accordance with the law of economy of scale. Informal seed systems have been marginalised and perceived as outdated in a scenario in which the agricultural system was being modernised. In 1998, however, the European Union recognised the need to conserve agricultural genetic resources and created a catalogue specially for registering what it called ‘conservation varieties’. In June 2008 an EU Directive was issued regulating the agricultural species involved. So what is this ‘new’ category of variety. What impact will it have in supporting the informal conservation initiatives in agricultural biodiversity and making them legitimate? This article sets out to address these questions by analysing the concept of conservation variety from when the phrase was coined up to the recent European directive 62/2008. After describing and evaluating the impact that the directive may have, Italian regulation on conservation varieties will be analysed focusing on synergies and diversities.
Lastly, in the light of the International Treaty on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, attention will turn to the regulations in order to verify how they correspond.

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