Brussels, 01 Apr 2004
REPORT on the proposal for a Council regulation establishing a Community programme on the conservation, characterisation, collection and utilisation of genetic resources in agriculture
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The adoption of Council Regulation (EC) No 1467/94 of 20 June 1994 on the conservation, characterisation, collection and utilisation of genetic resources in agriculture can be traced back to a host of resolutions and repeated demands by Parliament. Since the end of the 1980s, Parliament has pointed to the risks of genetic erosion in Europe and the world, at the same time highlighting the potential, in terms of the Community's rural development, afforded by the wide variety of useful plants and regionally adapted farm animal breeds.
The Community programme on the conservation of genetic diversity in agriculture, based on Regulation 1467/1994 , ended on 31 December 1999. Since then, the Council and Parliament have been calling for the coordinating and assistance measures to be adapted and extended. The Commission proposed a new programme in March 2001, but withdrew the proposal because both Parliament and the Council were opposed to the financing of national measures under the EAGGF Guarantee Section and wanted a more active role for the Commission in coordinating and implementing the new programme.
The Commission is called on to make the Community programme and the work programme, which is still pending, fit in with long-term Community strategies on biodiversity conservation, sustainable agriculture and rural development beyond what is initially a limited period from 2004 to 2006. In doing so it will simply be meeting the Community's commitments under the relevant international United Nations treaties (Convention on Biological Diversity, Rio 1992 and the FAO Global Plan of Action) and, in the long term, should support and coordinate necessary actions in the current and, above all, new Member States. That includes not only government-assisted programmes and projects, but also the many networks of non-governmental organisations which play an important role in both the conservation and better use of genetic diversity within sustainable agriculture.
The rapporteur strongly supports the Commission's intention to use the Community programme as an extension of, and complement to, Regulation 1257/1999 on rural development. The emphasis is on 'conservation through utilisation', with a view to production diversification, food quality improvement and regional specialities, including (in particular) in situ/in farm measures supporting farmers in preserving their traditional varieties and breeds and bringing products derived from them to local and regional markets. The preservation and further development of varieties and breeds which are particularly worth conserving also ought to be promoted, however, e.g. for organic farming, protection against erosion and landscape conservation, etc.
Attention should be drawn in particular to the implementing regulations the Commission has given advance notice of, but has not yet submitted, for amended Regulations 53-57/2002 and 401-403/1966 on the marketing of seed which have an impact on access to what are termed 'conservation varieties' and 'amateur varieties'. This special designation for and marketing of varieties which do not fulfil the relevant criteria for certified varieties, i.e. may not be marketed at present and, potentially, may cease to be produced or reproduced, is a matter regulated at Parliament's initiative. The implementing regulations for these directives, which were amended in 1996, have been in preparation since November 2002, but have still not been submitted to Parliament.
The Community programme to be adopted is of particular importance in view of the negotiations the Community is engaged in within the WTO on protecting geographical indications of origin and non-trade-distorting government support within agriculture. The programme will be a major factor in making European agriculture multifunctional: it will promote production diversification and sustainability instead of intensification and increased production.
On the basis of Member State and Parliament estimates of what is needed, the financial framework proposed by the Commission for the remaining years appears to the rapporteur to have been set at too low a level. Since the Commission intends to fund the Community programme under internal policies, however, Parliament and the Council will be able to make a correction after 2004.
No work programme for the Community programme has yet been submitted to Parliament.
Since virtually all the proposals by Member States and by Parliament (A5-0252/2002) have been incorporated into the new Commission proposal for a regulation on the conservation, characterisation, collection and utilisation of genetic resources in agriculture, however, the rapporteur sees no reason to table amendments again and therefore proposes that Parliament approve this proposal unamended.