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Organic breeding – Increasing the competitiveness of the organic breeding and farming sectors
Deadline: Sep 13, 2016  

 Horizon Europe

Topic Description
Specific Challenge:

The availability of organic seeds and varieties is an economic and technical challenge for organic producers. The current EU regulation requires that seed and propagation material used in organic farming is produced organically. However, it is estimated that more than 95% of organic production is based on crop varieties that were bred for the conventional sector and consequently lack important traits required under organic and low-input production conditions. As a consequence, there is a system of derogations to deal with the lack of organic seeds on the market. Significant seed multiplication and breeding efforts are needed to increase the availability of organic seeds not only to meet legislative requirements but also to improve the performance of the sector through varieties which are better suited to specific conditions of organic farming.


Proposals will involve a range of measures to increase the availability of organic seeds, develop a comprehensive breeding strategy and initiate the breeding of varieties which are suited for organic farming. They will provide a detailed view of the current situation in EU Member States as regards the availability and registration of seeds as well as opportunities and constraints to organic breeding and seed market development. Proposals will develop solutions in response to the gaps and bottlenecks identified. Furthermore, work will include identifying relevant (combinations of) traits suited to organic farming conditions, as well as testing existing varieties for organic production, and boost breeding activities for the organic sector. Proposed work will be based on partnerships between the breeding, farming and research sectors and fall under the concept of the multi-actor approach[[See definition of the 'multi-actor approach' in the introduction to this Work Programme part.]]. Particular attention will be given to demonstration, testing and training activities in particular in EU Member States where the organic sector is less developed and has particular needs. The topic is open to all types of organic farming systems (e.g. arable farming, horticulture including aromatic and herbs, fruit trees, grasslands, mixed) in various geographical and pedo-climatic and conditions. Selected projects will be requested to work together closely in particular with a view to developing information tools.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 8 million in 2016 and of up to EUR 6 million in 2017 would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude the submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact:

Activities will contribute significantly to improving the availability and quality of seeds for organic farming, and thus achieving the regulatory 100% organic seed target. They will contribute to:

  • increased transparency in the EU organic seed market;
  • improved access to a wider pool of high-quality seeds for the organic farming sector;
  • more harmonised registration approaches for organic seed in the EU;
  • efficient seed multiplication methods and breeding approache;s
  • the availability of tools and resources for pre-breeding and breeding;
  • implementation of legislative requirements.

In the medium to longer term, activities will help to increase competitiveness of the organic breeding and farming sectors throughout Europe and beyond. They will foster low-input agriculture, sustainability of farming practices and quality of products which meet consumer expectations. Conventional systems will also benefit from varieties which are better adapted to lower resource inputs and are more resilient to variable environmental conditions.

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