On 28th February 2021, the EU Commission's temporary experiment for marketing seed of populations of oat, barley, wheat and maize (Decision 2014/150/EU) ends. The corresponding national regulation (PopulationenV) will also expire on this date. Thus, according to the transitional regulation of the PopulationenV, from 1st of March 2021 only the seed quantities of populations already allocated by the Federal Plant Variety Office can be marketed.
Up to now, EU and national law allowed the marketing of seed of varieties only. In order to market seed from populations, existing directives would have to be adapted. To this end, the EU Commission has been conducting a temporary trial since 2014 to clarify the following questions in particular:
- Is it possible to identify populations based on information given in regards to their breeding and production methods?
- Is it possible to ensure the identity of populations by requirements on their traceability?
Besides Germany, six other member states (Denmark, France, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, and United Kingdom) participated in the experiment. The national regulation implementing the experiment (Verordnung über das Inverkehrbringen von Saatgut von Populationen der Arten Hafer, Gerste, Weizen und Mais; PopulationenV) contained derogations allowing the marketing of seed of approved populations during the experimental period.
Generally, varieties have to be distinct, homogeneous (uniform in appearance) and stable. On the contrary, populations are considered to have a certain genetic diversity (heterogeneity). This heterogeneity should enable them to adapt to different environmental conditions and to be more robust against diseases and pests. The cultivation of populations could be of interest for organic or extensive farming.
In future, the new EU Organic Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2018/848), which will apply from 1st of January 2022, will regulate marketing of organically heterogeneous material (OHM), i.e. populations produced under organic management. The corresponding delegated act is currently still being prepared.