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Norwegian Biodiversity Policy in the Interface between European Legislation and Multilateral Environmental Treaties: the Seed Issue

The Norwegian Nature Diversity Act stipulates that genetic diversity within domesticated species is to be managed so as to contribute to ensuring the resource foundation for the future, reflecting Norway's commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).

However, the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement may complicate realization: EU regulations on variety release, seed marketing and conservation varieties prohibit the distribution of seeds among farmers, allowing only the marketing of seeds of varieties from authorized seed shops that comply with strict criteria. This seriously limits farmers' possibilities to conserve and sustainably use crop genetic diversity.

Although Norway has chosen a less restrictive path, there is still a long way to go before the inconsistencies are resolved and Norwegian policy can promote the conservation and sustainable use of crop genetic resources. The project is designed to identify the actions and regulations required to resolve existing inconsistencies. Matches and mismatches between EU directives, CBD and ITPGRFA will be identified, and the findings explained by analysing driving forces, interests, power sources, and strategies.

We apply a theoretical framework that includes instrumental, structural and discursive power concepts. The effects on regulations and management practice in Norway are assessed. Finally, we identify the room of manoeuvre for Norway, and options for the EU.

The project builds mainly on political science and law, with some input from plant sciences.

Project leader: Leif Christian Jensen

Project period: 2011-2015


Winge, Tone, 'Seed Legislation in Europe and Crop Genetic Diversity'. Sustainable Agriculture Reviews, Vol 15, 2015, pp. 1-64.

Andersen, Regine, 'Norway’s Path to Ensuring Farmers’ Rights in the European Context'. In Andersen, Regine and Tone Winge (eds), Realising Farmers' Rights to Crop Genetic Resources: Success Stories and Best Practices. Abingdon (UK), Routledge, 2013, pp. 23-39.

Winge, Tone and Helen Groome, 'Conservation of Local Varieties in the Basque Country in Spite of Legal Restrictions'. In Andersen, Regine and Tone Winge (eds), Realising Farmers' Rights to Crop Genetic Resources: Success Stories and Best Practices. Abingdon (UK), Routledge, 2013, pp. 40-53.

Andersen, Regine, Plant Genetic Diversity in Agriculture and Farmers’ Rights in Norway. FNI Report 17/2012. Lysaker, FNI, 2012, 119 p.

Winge, Tone, A Guide to EU Legislation on the Marketing of Seed and Plant Propagating Material in the Context of Agricultural Biodiversity. FNI Report 11/2012. Lysaker, FNI, 2012, 85 p.

Andersen, Regine, 'The Plant Treaty - Crop Genetic Diversity and Food Security'. In Steinar Andresen, Elin Lerum Boasson and Geir Hønneland (eds), International Environmental Agreements: An Introduction. London/New York, Routledge, 2012, pp. 134-150.

Andersen, Regine, Plantemangfold i jordbruket og bønders rettigheter i Norge ('Plant Genetic Diversity and Farmers’ Rights in Norway'). FNI Report 11/2011. Lysaker, FNI, 2011, 116 p. In Norwegian.
 Related focal points of research:

   Biodiversity and genetic resources

Project funding:

   Research Council of Norway (ENVIRONMENT2015 Programme)

 External cooperation partners:

   Partners of the EU project Strategies for Organic and Low-input Integrated Breeding and Management (SOLIBAM)

 Recent media coverage

'Zuiver zaad of een boevenstreek?' ('Pure Seeds or the Prank of Crooks?'), Foodlog, 24.04.2013. In Dutch.

Fridtjof Nansen Institute
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