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THE FUTURE OF SEEDS POST-BREXIT

What impact will Brexit have on seed production? More choice perhaps for the gardener, suggests Sue Stickland
Oca and yacon (in the foreground) growing for tuber production

We try to reduce ‘vegetable miles’ by growing our own and buying locally, but often forget that their journey actually starts with the seeds. Hardly any of the vegetable seeds sold to UK gardeners and growers are produced in this country. Similarly, other products with local provenance are valued – local cider or breeds of livestock, for example – but rarely local varieties of vegetable.

Change could be on its way, however. Small independent seed companies are becoming more popular; Brexit could bring new regulations that govern which vegetable varieties they can sell; and there are moves to encourage local production of seed. All this could lead to more choice for gardeners – giving us some tailor-made varieties and better quality seed.

Duke of Albany’ pea – many tall-growing peas were dropped from the catalogues in the 1970s and 80s because of European seed legislation

JOINING THE EU

When Britain joined the EU in 1973, many favourite garden veg varieties were casualties – ‘Up-to-Date’ onion, ‘Duke of Albany’ pea and ‘Cottagers’ kale, for example. It became illegal to market a variety not registered on the UK ‘National List’ or the European ‘Common Catalogue’, and registration was expensive – not worth it for a seed company selling only a few packets to gardeners. Hundreds of varieties quickly became unavailable, and seed companies had to watch that they kept on the right side of the law. Even large well-known ones such asThompson&Morgan were prosecuted by MAFF (the 1960s’ equivalent of Defra) for selling ‘illegal’ varieties.

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About Kitchen Garden Magazine

In this month's issue of Kitchen Garden ... - £2814 Worth of garden goodies to be won - Get the buzz for heavier harvests 6 easy ways to bigger pickings - A taste of summer with courgettes, cherries and beetroot - Make crumbly compost in just 4 weeks! - The future of seeds post-prexit - 25 crops that sow themselves - The secret of keeping Bantams - Garden cleaning products on test - Grow a great lawn - Cauliflowers made easy