Vegetable seed packages under the magnifying glass

20.4.2007

<div>Small vegetable seed packages are sold at garden centres, department stores and food shops. Only seeds of certified or officially approved vegetable plants can be marketed. The varieties to be marketed have to be in the common catalogue of varieties of vegetable species published by the EU. For commonly grown vegetable plants, such as parsley, carrots, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash minimum quality requirements have been set out. Not all of the species are covered by seed regulations. This means in practice that there are no official quality requirements for dill, for example. The seed trade is regulated by the Seed Trade Act and the decrees issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.</div>

The following mandatory information has to be displayed on vegetable seed packages: species, variety, information on the packer or identification number, month and year of sealing the package or the last date the germination was examined, seed category and in Finnish or English the text “seed approved in accordance with EU rules and standards”.

It is not mandatory to denote the weight of the package on the packaging, but generally the weight, the number of seeds or the area that the seeds will cover is found on the packaging. The date germination was examined informs about when the last official sample was taken of the seed lot. In general, the vegetable seeds that are sold in small packages are in the seed category standard seeds, ST. The seed category tells you that the field that has produced the species and variety in question has been controlled during the growth period and that the seed sample has fulfilled the quality requirements. If the seeds have been treated, there has to be a note on the package.

It is not mandatory to declare the last due date on vegetable seed packages, but it is good to label species for which the germination rate drops quickly with an expiry date. If the period of validity is not declared, the buyer should check the date of the sealing of the package or the last date the germination was examined. It is not mandatory to note cultivating instructions on the packages either, but the sower likes to read the information about the best time to sow and how deeply the seeds should be sown.

The principle of strict liability that is adhered to in Finland means that the seeds sold have to correspond to the labelling of the packages. If you suspect that you have got the wrong variety, it is worth contacting the place of purchase or Evira’s Seed Testing and Organic Production Control Unit. It is worth saving the seed package with its guarantee certificate during cultivation, in order to be able to trace the seed lot if needed.

The germination of the seed lot is displayed on most packages, but it is not mandatory. The seed lot has in any case to fulfil the germination requirements for the species, in order to be able to market it. The germination rate for tomatoes should be at least 75 %, even if germination is not declared on the seed package. The quality requirement regarding germination varies by species, for carrots, for example, the germination requirement is 65 % and for cucumbers 80 %. The germination requirements are defined in the decree on the seed trade for vegetable plants by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Most of the seeds are imported from EU countries, either ready packaged in small consumer packages or in bigger lots intended for packers. Vegetable seeds do not need to be checked separately by Evira, as long as the seed lot has been checked and approved in another EU country. If the period of validity marked on the packages has expired, the germination of the seed lot has to be examined again by Evira’s Seed Testing and Organic Control Unit before marketing is continued. As to seed imported from the EU, it is not necessary to record germination information on the packages, but it has to be recorded on seed packages that are packaged in Finland.

For flower seeds there are no quality requirements set out by the legislation in the way that there are for vegetable seeds.  Anyway, the species and variety have to be displayed on the packages, and preferably also the identity of the packer.


For more information, please contact:
Senior Officer Ritva Vallivaara-Pasto, tel. 020 77 25320
Senior Officer Mika Kivistö tel. 020 77 25321
Seed Testing and Organic Control Unit
firstname.lastname@evira.fi

 

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