In the field of varieties, the Federal Office for Food Safety is the competent authority of the first instance for the enforcement of the material laws (§ 6 para. 1 GESG) Seed Act 1997 as amended and Plant Variety Protection Act 2001 as amended.
Variety Admission Procedure - Austrian Regulations
The EU directives have been transposed into national law with the Seeds Act 1997, the relevant regulations and the "Methods for Seeds and Varieties - Guidelines for Variety Testing".
Federal Act on Seed Recognition, Seed Approval and Marketing of Seed and Variety Approval (Seed Act 1997) BGBl. I No. 72/1997 as amended BGBl. I No. 39/2000 (Agricultural Law Amendment Act 2000), BGBl. I No. 109/2001 (Agricultural Law Amendment Act 2001) Reference to Seed and BGBl. I No. 110/2002 (Agricultural Law Amendment Act 2002) and BGBl. I No. 83/2004 (Agricultural Law Amendment Act 2004).
Ordinance of the Federal Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management on the contamination of seeds with genetically modified organisms and the labelling of GMO varieties (Seed Gene Technology Ordinance) BGBl II No. 478/2001- Annex to the Seed Gene Technology Ordinance
Methods for Seeds and Varieties (§5 SaatG) - Guidelines for Variety Admission Testing (If prescribed by the BMLFUW, published by the BAES in the Variety and Seed Bulletin). The methods contain the technical details of the check. The methods are not only used by BAES, but also by authorized test technicians. The methods are adapted from time to time according to the state of the art in science and technology.
In the admission procedure, a distinction must be made between value testing and register testing. Every year, an application is made for approval testing for 360 to 400 domestic and foreign breeding strains and varieties. A total of 580 to 620 candidates and 250 to 280 approved varieties of about 30 plant species will be tested. Approximately 10 to 30 % of the varieties applied for are ultimately considered and registered to be of cultural value. These are entered in the Austrian List of Varieties, published with their value characteristics in the Descriptive List of Varieties and also published in the Official Journal of the European Communities (Common Catalogue of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species, "EU List"). The new approvals serve, in combination with proven and market-relevant varieties, as a comparison for the succeeding candidates.
"The Variety Admission Authority shall approve a variety if it is
- is distinguishable, homogeneous and stable in the course of the verification of the register, and
- has cultural value in the context of the value test (exception: vegetables, grass and hereditary components) and
- a variety denomination which can be entered in the list of varieties has been published" (§ 46 (1, 2) SaatG).
The Variety Admission Commission (SZK) is involved in the procedure for variety admission.
2 experts (University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Association of Plant Breeders and Seed Merchants)
9 Representatives of the Chambers of Agriculture
1 representative of the BMLFUW (non-voting)
1 BAES representative (non-voting)
The SZK (successor of the stud book commission according to the Plant Breeding Act 1946) decides on the award of the land cultural value. The outcome of the SCC is not binding on the Authority's positive or negative decision (BAES), but in general the Authority follows the SCC's proposal. Without a vote of the SZK, the authority cannot approve a variety (except for varieties of species for which the requirement of cultural value is waived).
Austrian List of Varieties (§ 65 SaatG):
The procedure for acceptance of a variety is concluded with a positive or negative decision. If the application for variety approval is granted (variety denomination positive, register examination positive, value examination positive, vote of the SZK), an entry in the Austrian List of Varieties
is made. The species and variety denomination, applicant, breeder, start of variety approval, etc. are entered in the list of varieties.
List of Varieties shall include the states of expression relevant for cultivation, use, etc.
An appeal may be lodged against a negative decision. The BMLFUW decides on the appeal. Since 1953 there have been almost 20 appointments.
Duration and end of variety acceptance (§ 59 SaatG):
The acceptance of a variety is valid until the end of the tenth calendar year following the acceptance, in case of an acceptance on 21.12.2006 the acceptance of a variety ends on 31.12.2016.
An early termination of the variety acceptance is possible, the applicant requests the deletion from the list of varieties. In the event of expiry or cancellation, an extension period (for the certification or approval and marketing of seed) is granted (30 June of the third year after the expiry of the variety approval). If the acceptance of a variety is cancelled ex officio, this generally lapses.
Prolongation of the Variety Admission ((§ 60 SaatG):
The BAES shall renew the acceptance (at the request of the former applicant for variety acceptance) for a maximum period of 10 years if the following conditions are met:
- Cultivation and market significance
The variety value test takes two to three years and is carried out in several locations according to the significance of the plant species and the factual requirements; only then can reliable statements be made. In recent years, the testing period for a number of plant species has been reduced to two years: Summer oats, winter and summer rye, summer soft wheat, winter and summer spelt, summer triticale, maize, sorghum, Sudan grass, millet, Western Wold ryegrass, pea, Alexandrine clover, incarnate clover, Persian clover, field bean, seed vetch, phacelia, oil radish, winter and summer rape (for fodder use), rape, caraway, buckwheat, soya bean, sunflower, yellow mustard and safflower (for green use). Winter wheat, winter and spring barley, winter triticale, grain rape, beta beet, potato, etc. are decided on the basis of three-year data. The summarised results form the value audit report. On the basis of this report, the Variety Admission Commission (consisting of plant cultivation experts from the nine Chambers of Agriculture, breeding experts, experts from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism and AGES) proposes to the Variety Admission Authority the admission or non-admission of varieties.
The "national cultural value" as an important element of the plant variety system:
"A variety has cultural value if, in the totality of its value-determining characteristics compared with comparable authorised varieties, it
- improvement of cultivation, in particular by taking account of resistance to harmful organisms,
- for the use of the harvested crop or
- for the utilisation of products obtained from the harvested crop" (§ 50 SaatG).
The cultural value is a relative value, relative to the respective variety spectrum, and not a static value. It is constantly adapted to changing economic conditions and price situations and its content is redesigned. Its determination is partly a matter of discretion despite objective value test data. An improvement may be achieved if the test variety exceeds the performance of the most valuable accepted variety in an important value characteristic such as an agronomic criterion, an essential resistance characteristic, yield or certain quality parameters, or if the value-determining characteristics are more favourably combined. In at least one growing region, "the best" approved variety must therefore be exceeded; the growing regions are delimited differently for the plant species. Individual negative properties can be partially offset by other favourable characteristics. This way of interpreting the cultural value of the land promotes diversification and regionalisation of the assortment.
The register examination (DUS test) takes two years and is carried out at one or two locations. It extends to numerous botanical-morphological plant and grain characteristics. The summarized results lead to a Technical Test Report and a botanical variety description.
A variety is distinguishable (Distinctness) if its plants differ in the expression of at least one characteristic from plants of any other variety of a Contracting State or Member State (§ 47 SaatG, simplified). A variety is uniform if its plants, apart from a few deviations, are sufficiently uniform in the expression of the relevant characteristics (§ 48 SaatG, simplified). A variety is stable if the expression of its relevant characteristics is unchanged after repeated propagation (§ 49 SaatG, simplified).
These criteria of distinctness, uniformity and stability appear less relevant for practical agriculture, but are basic prerequisites for a functioning variety and seed system and are carried out in a similar way in most European and many non-European countries. Through systematic maintenance breeding, the breeder ensures that the variety remains homogeneous and stable.
In Austria, in addition to the Seed Act 1997, the register examination is also regulated in the Plant Variety Protection Act 2001 as part of the plant variety protection procedure.