Despite a series of incorrect media reports – among them pieces in the Mail on Sunday and the Express – not one British blooming plant, let alone thousands, will be “banned” from garden centres as a result of Commission proposals to improve EU rules and to cut – not increase – red tape.
First, the EC proposal stipulates that “ornamental plants” (garden flowers) will no longer be covered by most of the rules on “plant reproductive material” laid down in existing EU rules. Plant reproductive material includes, for example, seeds, shoots, vegetables, etc.
So the newspapers have got it completely the wrong way round. The Commission is proposing to remove regulations from garden plants, not impose new ones.
Garden plants will in future –if the Commission’s proposal is agreed by national Ministers and the European Parliament – only need to comply with some general rules, rather than the current more detailed quality and control requirements.
Professional organisations like nurseries that produce garden plants in large quantities will have to register. But there will be no such obligation for garden centres selling to consumers.
Of course, minimum requirements for labelling and quality will remain. Such basic requirements apply to most products and already do to flowers. Without them, consumers would not be able to have confidence in what they are buying.
In addition, if a nursery is marketing its material with a variety name, it should keep a list of its varieties, including information on the description and name of the varieties.
But such garden plant varieties will not need to be registered in the way described by the Mail and Express. There is no chance whatsoever that “that the UK would not be able to comply as it doesn’t have an official plant register” or that “this could mean unregistered plants being removed from sale, with anyone selling them facing a large fine”.
More detailed registration requirements will apply to plants – notably those used for large-scale agricultural purposes – included in the “list of EU plant species”. Even then, micro-enterprises will be exempt from those registration requirements.
And, to reiterate: ornamentals – garden plants – will not be included in that list at all.
So the bottom line is existing requirements will be significantly simplified – but some important rules will be retained so that customers can be sure that what they are buying is what it says on the packet or pot.
The proposal is now being discussed by Members of the European Parliament, as well as government Ministers, including those from the UK. They – and not the European Commission – decide on the final text of EU laws.