Frequently Asked Questions

Are there restrictions on the shipment of seeds to your country?

In general, in case the seeds are for personal use only, our seeds can be shipped to your country without a phytosanitary certificate. In case of doubt, please contact us free of charge to verify your local regulations before placing your order.

Importing seeds for personal use which means not intended for use in the course of trade or business, has in most countries limited restrictions. For example, seed import for personal use within the European Union to the UK is unrestricted.

If seeds are intended for professional use and exported outside the European Union, a phytosanitary certificate is in most cases required to accompany the shipment. The requirements and restrictions differ per country and per variety.

Plants and plant products produced within the EU or imported and cleared for free circulation can usually travel freely between member states. High-risk plants and plant products can move across EU-borders provided the material has a plant passport.

Off our vegetables seeds and within the European Union only, our tomato seeds require a plant passport. Van Den Berg Seeds B.V. is a registered company certified to issue plant passports and will accompany our shipments within the EU with a plant passport, free of charge.

In case we do find issues with the shipment due to import restrictions, we will try to resolve this or as last resort, restrict ordering from these countries on our website and refund your order. Fortunately, we have never used this last resort and can still state that we deliver globally!


What are Phytosanitary Certificates?

The Phytosanitary certificate is used to certify that our seeds have been inspected according to appropriate procedures, and they are considered to be free from quarantine pests, practically free from other injurious pests, and conform with the current phytosanitary regulations of the importing country. Since we ship globally, we comply with the strictest regulations.

The Dutch Phytosanitary certificate is issued by Naktuinbouw (Netherlands Inspection Service for Horticulture) where we and our seeds are registered. Naktuinbouw is an independent agency carrying out official inspection and certification tasks in horticultural seeds and plants, under accreditation and responsibility of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture.


Can I buy all seeds freely in the EU?

Yes, for you it's perfectly legal to buy any vegetable seed you like, plant it, grow it and to enjoy the results.

For seed breeding companies this is a different story. In the EU, there is a list of 'official' vegetable varieties and a law governing seed breeders and sellers, which states that if a variety isn't on the official list, then seed companies cannot 'market' the seed to anyone. In an immediate sense, this law only affects us, not you - because there are no laws at all governing the buying of seed or what vegetables anyone can grow.

If you want to learn more about this legislation, please continue reading our topic regarding the reasons behind this EU legislation on marketing of vegetable seeds or visit the EU website on this topic.


Does the marketing directive apply to non-EU countries?

No, the Marketing Directives do not apply to seed and propagating material shown to be intended for export to third (non EU) countries.


Why are there restrictions for seed breeders and sellers to market new vegetable varieties in the EU?

Originally, seed laws were introduced for a very good reason: to prevent unscrupulous seed merchants from selling poor-quality seed of unknown varieties. The EU commission (and more specifically the Directorate for Health and Consumers) seems to have two main motivations.

The first is paranoia about food safety and the second is a desire to increase exports of seed from the EU to the rest of the world. To achieve these goals, they are looking to sacrifice biodiversity, innovation and choice.

The official story as stated in Council Directive 2002/55/EC of 13 June 2002 on the marketing of vegetable seed:

The production of vegetable seed occupies an important place in the agriculture of the Community. Satisfactory results in vegetable cultivation depend to a large extent on the use of appropriate seed. Greater productivity will be achieved in Community vegetable cultivation if for the choice of varieties accepted for marketing the Member States apply uniform rules which are as strict as possible.

  • A common catalogue of varieties of vegetable species should be compiled. This catalogue can be compiled only on the basis of national catalogues.
  • All Member States should therefore compile one or more national catalogues of the varieties accepted for certification, checking and marketing in their territory.
  • These catalogues must be drawn up in accordance with uniform rules so that the varieties accepted will be distinct, stable and sufficiently uniform.

The common catalogues of varieties of agricultural plant and vegetable species list the varieties which can be marketed in the EU. These catalogues are based on the registration of plant varieties in EU countries after they have been technically examined there and notified to the Commission. The variety registration is a precondition for the certification of seed.

To be listed, varieties must meet standards on:

  • Distinctness;
  • Uniformity;
  • Stability;

Value for cultivation and use - for agricultural crops. This value is based on:

  • Yield;
  • Resistance to harmful organisms;
  • Response to the environment;
  • Quality characteristics.

This sounds all great, but what does this actually mean? Let's first take a step back and lookat the history of seed breeding.

Since the beginning of agriculture, the selection and reproduction of seeds, as well as the conservation and renewing of agricultural biodiversity, was done by farmers and growers of vegetables. The breeding and production of seeds as a profession started in Europe and then in the US towards the end of the 19 th. century, first within specialised farms, and then among specialised companies.

The growth of markets, first at the national level and then at the international level, is what drove a separation between growers and seed breeders. A local market supports and even produces local diversity. However, the spread and concentration of the agribusiness chain (providers of seeds and farm inputs, processors and distributors) within large markets has encouraged economies of scale on a few of the most important crops, leading to uniform products at the lowest price possible.

To support the growers to create high value crops, seed breeding companies like us started to breed varieties that have high value for growers. High value Van Den Berg Seeds translates into:

  • being resistant to most common diseases to reduce risk, prevent loss of crops and reduce costs because you need less pesticides.
  • high uniformity to reduce handling costs and increase market price.
  • High quality vegetables in general for a good market price
  • the ability to stay fresh for longer time (see Long Life ® and Vine Ripe®)
  • high brix and good taste

Breeding these new varieties takes many years of experience, but even with this experience and know how on average it takes 7-10 years (this used to be 15 years) to find a new variety that meets above requirements of the market and growers.

Imagine this: investing 10 years of work with no guarantee that the result will lead to a marketable new seed variety. Take for example the bitter free cucumber. This cucumber was found after years and years of trial and error with almost 7 days a week, 24 hours per day nurturing, watching and selecting in crops.

That is a big investment but it is our hobby and mission to continuously look for new varieties to support growers to make the best products possible. But we are not a philanthropist organization so we need to protect this investment. Wouldn't you? So how do you protect this, do we need laws for this?

In principle no, no other laws than the existing (trade) laws are required. You cannot re-produce a F1 hybrid of a vegetable variety unless you know and have obtained the parent breeding lines used in the creation of that F1 hybrid.

So why the need to register varieties or even worse put patents on varieties? Well again the official story is:

"greater productivity will be achieved in Community vegetable cultivation if for the choice of varieties accepted for marketing the Member States apply uniform rules which are as strict as possible".

The facts are:

  • Since the introduction of the EU laws, the bio diversity and therefore the base material for seed breeding companies, has been reduced
  • The number of seed breeding companies have been reduced
  • There is a growing demand for high quality F1 vegetable seeds but there are only a few companies left to buy them from.
  • Small breeding companies struggle to to get their new varieties listed in the catalogues and if they get listed, the admission and administration fees are not economic viable.
  • Even the trade in Heirloom and authentic seeds has been restricted, resulting in an increased demand for the few listed varieties. An interesting law suit is Association Kokopelli vs Graines Baumaux SAS.

Van Den Berg Seeds B.V. continuously searches for vegetable seeds that meets market demands and exceeds expectations in terms of productivity and quality. We have been doing so for over 130 years and the existing trade laws state that if you don't, customers will look for other suppliers next year.

Since the start of seeds breeding the Dutch seed breeding companies have shared knowledge and materials which has resulted in the fact that Dutch seeds are known to be the best seeds in the world. Since the 2002 council directive, this way of breeding is no longer possible. The law intends to reach greater productivity, but the result is that a few companies control the market.


Where can I find more information on seed laws?

  1. Council Directive 2000/29/EC of 8 May 2000 on protective measures against the introduction into the Community of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the Community
  2. Commission Directive 92/105/EEC of 3 December 1992 establishing a degree of standardization for plant passports to be used for the movement of certain plants
  3. Dutch National Plant Protection Organisation: NAK Tuinbouw
  4. Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Animal and Plant Health Agency: Importing plants, fruit, vegetables or plant material to the UK
  5. Jurisprudence: Association Kokopelli v Graines Baumaux SAS
  6. Winge, Tone, 'Seed Legislation in Europe and Crop Genetic Diversity'. Sustainable Agriculture Reviews, Vol 15, 2015, pp. 1-64.
  7. European Commission: Trade in plants and plant products within the EU


What does VINERIPE mean?

VINERIPE ® means that the fruit of our hybrid tomatoes, contrary to the fruit of
ordinary tomatoes, must be picked half green to avoid spoiling and can be grown on
the plant till fully ripe and red. It is obvious that for best quality and flavour tomatoes
should ripen on the plant, not in a box. Also visit the cultivating tips page for special instructions.


What does LONGLIFE mean?

LONGLIFE ® means that after picking red and ripe, the tomatoes will not ripen further
and will keep their perfect condition and quality for weeks in stead of days. That is
because contrary to ordinary tomatoes, ripening of the fruit of our tomato hybrids
stops after being picked. Ordinary tomatoes must be harvested when half green;
otherwise they will rot too quickly. Also visit the cultivating tips page for special instructions.


Where can I find cultivating tips?

Please visit our special page on this topic or contact us on info@vdb-proseeds.nl to request our instruction book or free personal advice.


Why is hybrid seed so expensive to produce?

Hybrid seeds are expensive because we spend a lot of money on research and development that often takes years to accomplish. The yield, disease resistance, fruit quality of hybrid seeds is significantly higher than original seeds which in the end will deliver improved profitability for growers. It's often better to invest in 1 ha of high quality produce than in 10 ha with low quality. This will save labor, seed costs, water, fertilizer and risk with the same or higher profit for the grower.