Ely-based plant breeder CN Seeds has told reporters that it could relocate to mainland Europe if the UK leaves the EU customs union after Brexit.
The company, which specialises in herb and salad crops, made the comments as a number of UK-based breeders have expressed concerns about the lack of understanding about the industry that politicians and civil servants have.
“If Britain leaves the customs union, the impact would be catastrophic,” said technical manager Edward Hale. “We export over half of our seed and our largest export market is the EU. “An obvious choice [of where to relocate]would be Holland because of the amount of support seed companies get from the government there.”
Seed companies are concerned that varieties bred and registered in the UK may not have sufficient commercial protection going forwards. “Right now, if we launch an open pollinated product, we can put it on open plant variety protection,” explained Edward. “I assume this will be more or less copied and pasted into UK law when we leave the EU, but until we get confirmation of that, in theory all of our products will no longer have any form of protection beyond March 2019.”