Farmers who are considering using farm-saved seed this year must be careful not to fall foul of legislation preventing the transfer of seed from one holding to another.

According to Penny Maplestone, chief executive of the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB), many growers are unaware of the rules governing the use of farm-saved seed.

“This season’s difficult weather has brought short-term issues of seed quality and availability into sharp focus for many growers.

We have taken a lot of phone calls from people who are unsure about the regulatory position on seed use and supply.”

In response, BSPB and the Agricultural Industries Confederation have produced a user-friendly guide to the most frequently asked questions on the use of certified and farm-saved seed.

“Many of these questions relate to the movement or sale of farm-saved seed from one farming business to another, which is not permitted by law because it bypasses the rigorous plant health and performance checks involved in the seed certification process. It also threatens vital investment in the plant breeding innovation that farmers depend on,” says Dr Maplestone.

“We recognise the difficulties facing growers this year in particular, but we don’t have any opportunity to be flexible with the rules as they are set in legislation.”
Penny Maplestone, chief executive of the British Society of Plant Breeders

Farm-saved seed must be used within the same business that produced it, meaning it cannot be transferred – whether for cash, payment in kind or free of charge – to another business for use as a crop.

Growers must also pay seed royalties when sowing home-saved seed, although they can claim a refund on royalties already paid if the crop is not drilled.

However, they cannot certify seed retrospectively in order to sell it, as all certified seed must come from dedicated growers, she adds.

Farmers who flout the rules will be liable for prosecution.

“We recognise the difficulties facing growers this year in particular, but we don’t have any opportunity to be flexible with the rules as they are set in legislation.”

Graham Redman, a consultant at the Andersons Centre, says many farmers are altering their rotation following the wet winter, with an increasing number considering using home-saved seed.

“One can’t blame farmers for shopping around, but sourcing seed from uncertified producers is illegal, and they may not get the seed they expected.”

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