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Seaweeds are fantastic products, but the regulatory process…

PerezPaz Perez, European Regulatory Manager, Trade Corp International

Seaweeds are fantastic products. They are well-known for their capacity to stimulate crops, and for years have helped growers in their crop management.

There are several factors that influence the commercialization of seaweed products. But of them all, the regulatory process has become one of the most difficult to contend with.

Historically, seaweeds have been regarded as plant protection products. But the truth is that seaweeds cannot be confined to this category. Due to their properties, and most importantly, due to their mode of action, seaweeds should be considered biostimulant products. As its name states, seaweeds stimulate the plants natural processes and confer crops on an increased tolerance to abiotic stress.

In Europe’s regulatory framework today, only mineral fertilisers and plant protection products benefit from a harmonized position. Thus, national laws are still the only way to market seaweeds in Europe. This situation obliges the industry to multiply their regulatory efforts, looking for compliance with the requirements of each Member State.

But its future looks promising. DG GROW (Commission’s Department for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs) is aware of this fragmented scenario. Consequently, three years ago they initiated a huge project for the revision of the fertilisers regulation to extend its scope, and eventually to embrace non-mineral fertilisers and biostimulant products that nowadays lack a common framework.

Since the beginning of the revision project, EBIC (European Biostimulants Industry Council) has worked hand in hand with DG GROW. EBIC was founded in 2011 by Tradecorp International and 10 other biostimulant producers, with a clear and shared goal: to secure an EU single market with appropriate regulation for biostimulants. Recognized as the global reference for the biostimulant industry, EBIC provides expertise on the specificities of these products, and helps the European authorities to better understand the reality of our industry. A first draft of the revised regulation is expected for this year end, and will be followed by an interservice consultation process and a full legislative procedure, after which the final regulation will be (hopefully) adopted in 2018 or 2019.