Update, 17 april 2010: Over two weeks later, and not one of the MEPs bothered to reply. This shows how crap the main parties are - make sure you don't vote for them in the election!
Dr. Kay Swinburne MEP, Conservative Party
Mr Derek Vaughan MEP, Labour Party
Mrs Jill Evans MEP, Plaid Cymru
Mr John Bufton MEP, UK Independence Party
Did you know that there is European Union legislation which prevents the sale of seeds from old vegetable varieties? The exception is if they are registered on a national or EU list - something which can only be done at great cost, and with criteria that are based around industrial agriculture which means that many traditional fruits and vegetables would not pass because their fruits are not of a standard size and shape. This legislation was passed in the interests of powerful commercial seed producers, and is leading to many traditional, natural, healthy varieties becoming extinct, so that all we will be left with is the bland, standardised fruit and vegetables mass-produced for supermarkets. Others have written about this subject, and there is an in-depth article about the power of the big commercial seed producers and how they use the law in their own interests here.
Going beyond the arguments about corrupt vested interests and the loss of amazing varieties and flavours in a move to standardized and patented agriculture, there is also the question of the future. The climate will change, and we may be losing some of the varieties that would be better suited to deal with those changes.
The EU is letting us down on issues like this, and our MEPs are apparently doing nothing (we have contacted them and will report on any positive responses other than standardised fob-offs). [The first response is expected - the email to Derek Vaughan's email address was bounced back as 'unknown user'. The labour MEPs can't even make themselves contactable, so there is little chance of them overturning stupid laws.]
But you can do something - grow your own! Support companies like The Real Seed Catalogue and help to keep traditional, healthy, tasty fruits and vegetables in the world. Lobby your council for more communal allotments if you don't have your own garden.
"Hybrid ("F1") seed is the result of a cross between two different , but heavily inbred parents. Seed you save from these plants will either be sterile or a give a whole mix of shapes and types, usually producing a poor crop.
Only the seed company knows what the parents are, thus only they can produce that particular variety. If you want to grow it, you have no other source - good for the seed companies but not for you! Small growers should be able to keep their own seeds, selecting each year the best plants most suitable for their own land and conditions.
Yes, there are a few exceptions, but in general, the hybrid seed business has been a public relations victory over the small grower. For example, you will soon see more and more hybrid leek seed offered to you. This is because the supermarkets have set incredibly rigid limits on leek size, and the only way to achieve this is through hybridising two inbred varieties, so all leek seed production is switching to hybrids.
You will be told that these new leeks are 'more uniform', 'straighter' and so on. But what about flavour and adaptability? People seem to forget that we want to eat & enjoy these things - food is not just a commodity!"
From 'Why grow real seed?'