In the European Union, the marketing of seed, and in some cases plant material, is regulated through a process known as National Listing. This legislation applies to varieties/cultivars of the main Agricultural and Horticultural crops; however, not all species are within the scope of this legislation.
To comply with the marketing legislation, a variety/cultivar must be registered on a National List. In order to add a variety to a National List, it must be Distinct, sufficiently Uniform and Stable (DUS) and, for agricultural crops, have satisfactory Value for Cultivation and Use (VCU). DUS and VCU tests usually take between one and three years.
Recent EU legislation regulates the marketing of seed of landraces and traditional varieties of certain agricultural and vegetable crops and these may be registered as Conservation Varieties. No VCU test is required for the registration of agricultural Conservation Varieties, however if any seed is sold, it has to be certified.
In addition, seed of vegetable varieties sold in small packets to the amateur market have to be registered as Amateur Vegetable Varieties.
Both Conservation and Amateur Vegetable Varieties do not require a formal DUS test and requirements of this marketing legislation are less rigorous.
The following websites may be useful to those wishing to find out more:
Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) - Plant Varieties and Seeds, which includes a guide to national listing of varieties of agricultural and vegetable crops in the UK and information on conservation varieties, amateur vegetable varieties and variety denominations.
Plant variety database - European Commission (v.3.0)