Heirloom veg set to return
4 September 2010
Heritage fruit and vegetable cultivars could be making a comeback into seed catalogues if government plans to simplify the process for registration gets the go ahead.
The government is inviting those who sell vegetable seeds to amateur gardeners to comment on its proposals, which includes simplifying the process for registration as well as encouraging sellers to include more conservation varieties in their listings.
The RHS is among dozens of organisations which have already contributed to framing government rules for registering heirloom cultivars and those aimed at amateur gardeners on the UK Seed List of cultivars approved for sale.
Until now heritage cultivars have largely been kept out of the mainstream market due to European legislation which required extensive official testing before a variety could be included on the list – in practice making it prohibitively expensive to list non-commercial varieties.
Now, however, the European Commission has relaxed the rules in response to complaints that they restricted genetic variation in vegetable cultivars too much. The government also says the demand for heirloom vegetable cultivars and those grown only by amateur gardeners has risen steeply, by about 40% in the last two years.
Until now heritage cultivars have been available mainly through seed swaps and membership schemes such as the Heritage Seed Library, run by Garden Organic.
Under the new proposals, heirloom vegetable cultivars and those aimed at the amateur gardener would be exempted from full testing, cutting the cost of registering them sharply.
The government believes that by making heritage cultivars more widely available on the open market it will also contribute towards conservation, biodiversity and the preservation of traditional varieties.
The consultation runs until 29 October.