Report on the proposed regulation on the conservation, characterisation, collection and utilisation of genetic resources in agriculture

July 11, 2002

Brussels, 10 July 2002

FINAL A5-0252/2002 25 June 2002
REPORT on the proposal for a Council regulation on the conservation, characterisation, collection and utilisation of genetic resources in agriculture and amending Regulation (EC) No 1258/1999
Full text

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SHORT JUSTIFICATION

In 1994, the Council regulation on the conservation, characterisation, collection and utilisation of genetic resources in agriculture launched a five-year action programme, which lasted until 1999. 21 projects were partly funded by the EC, the total budget was EUR 20 million, but only 10 million were allocated. Four projects focused on animals, 17 on plants. A total of 209 partners from all 15 Member States and four non-EU states were involved. Projects had on average 10 partners from 6-7 States.

A group of independent experts has evaluated the programme and published a report. Experts conclude that work should be continued and recommend a second 5-year programme. They also give 13 recommendations. The Commission proposes to finance the action programme from the EAGGF Guarantee Section. Annual cost should be up to EUR 10 million.

The EAGGF Guarantee section finances obligatory expenditures such as guarantees in dairy production. Parliament as a budgetary authority has no say in these obligatory expenditures. It does not seem evident to your rapporteur that the safeguarding of the genetic heritage in agriculture has the same status as dairy subsidies. The budget allocation as obligatory expenditure is not logical. But as this concerns agriculture and budget questions rather than research he only would like to alert the lead committee and does not intend to draft amendments to Article 9.

There is a risk that the under-expenditure of financial resources will continue. The independent expert's report states: "the actual sum engaged has been roughly only half of this sum [the EUR 20M foreseen]." To improve this, the rules for applying the Regulation should be scrutinised carefully. The Commission proposes to apply Article 4 of Decision 1999/468/EC ( Comitology Decision). This article concerns the management procedure. Your rapporteur holds the view that there should rather be an implementing regulation adopted (as it was done under the first five-year term) and that to that end Article 5 of the Comitology Decision should apply which governs regulating procedures. This Article foresees a stronger participation of the European Parliament if the Committee reacts too slowly or if Parliament considers a proposal to exceed the competences of the Commission.

From the research point of view it is important that the genetic heritage in agriculture is well preserved. Databases that preserve only the genetic code of plants or animals will not be an adequate substitute for the living animal or plant for a long time because the animal or plant is more than its genetic code. Thus it is important that seeds can still germinate, an ability they tend to lose if stored for too long. Frozen embryos from cattle also cannot be stored endlessly.

Lesser used or non-commercialised agricultural species might prove useful in the future because they

grow under special climatic conditions
or grow on difficult soils
or show resistance to insects, mildew, etc.
or have a taste that is not fashionable now but might come back.

Therefore, it is important for the EU to make sure that these rare species are not only preserved in the form of their genes but also as living plants or animals. To that end, they have to be preserved in situ, on farms. This has to be emphasised in the action plan.

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Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development - Rapporteur: Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf

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