2008 did not get off to a good start for seed biodiversity in France. In February, Kokopelli was fined in two court cases for the crime of selling traditional and ancient seed varieties which were not listed on an “official”, government-approved list. Kokopelli is a non-profit French group set up in 1999 to safeguard endangered seed strains, and has built up one of the largest European seed collections (2500 reproducible varieties) of vegetable, flower and cereal seeds reproducible and accessible both to amateurs and professionals. Baumaux, a large seed seller, took the association to court for unfair competition.
All the seeds sold by Kokopelli are open pollinated which means you can save your own seeds from their seeds, which is the basic idea behind preservation and conservation of biodiversity.
Things might be looking up, however, as the European Commission approved a proposal last month allowing for derogations from the “official” EU seed directory for seed varieties threatened by extinction. It has proposed that these varieties could be placed on the catalogues without official examination, once they meet some minimum standards.
France has perhaps the strictest and most constraining seed legislation in the world. Since 1949, farmers are only allowed to buy seeds that are officially registered on the national catalogue, many of which are sterile. France is home to the biggest commercial seed industry in Europe.