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Grain, mills, flour

This page is work in progress and over time, we hope to add more information.

NB: Though we have taken care to ensure the accuracy of the content of this page, all notes on this page are for guidance only and should not be taken as legal advice. Neither Sustain or the Real Bread Campaign can be held responsible for any errors or omissions, or consequences arising from your action (or inaction) having read these notes.  We strongly advise that you read the relevant legislation in full and contact the relevant government department for definitive interpretation as necessary. 

See also

Seed Marketing Regulations

There are strict rules controlling who can market (which means to give away, as well as sell) plant seeds, including wheat; it is only legal to market varieties that appear on the UK National List of Permitted varieties; and there are rules for how seeds must be certified, packaged, sealed and labelled.

Sadly, the rules on marketing seed are clear that giving away or swapping seed would both fall into the definition of marketing, even in private seed-swapping clubs. In an email sent to the Campaign on 10th December 2010, Fera wrote: ‘The giving of seed by one party to another for the purposes of producing a commercial crop where the ownership of the seed changes might be construed as marketing whether or not monies are exchanged.’

Fera has, however, taken the view that because of the small amounts of seed involved (i.e. one bag/packet per school/person, which would not exceed 15kg per bag/packet) and that the seed is not going on to produce an agricultural crop, the Seed Marketing Regulations 2010 would  not  apply  to wheat used for Bake Your Lawn projects. Further, Fera views that wheat grown for use in arts and craft projects, such as wheat berries for making wheat pillows, or maracas; or whole wheat stalks with the heads attached for making corn dollies as not being covered by the regulations.

National List

Under European legislation, it is only legal to market (meaning sell or otherwise trade, including giving away) seeds of plant varieties that have been tested and certified.  Each country within the EU has a National List of certified varieties and the EU has a Common Catalogue of these. There is a fee to have a variety listed and, generally, it is only organisations that will benefit financially (usually a company that bred a particular variety) that will pay this.

For the most up to date information on the current UK National List, see The Plant Varieties and Seeds Gazette.

Heritage varieties and mixed populations

Without sponsors, older varieties eventually fall off the list and, frustratingly, it becomes illegal to market them.  In the case of wheat, the oldest variety on the UK National List only dates back to the mid 1960’s.

Despite European laws and directives designed to protect and promote genetic diversity in crops, certified seed must be genetically homogenous, genetically stable and genetically unique. Unfortunately, this makes true heritage landraces, which are genetically diverse and adaptive, impossible to certify under present European law.

Participatory Plant Breeding

Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB) can be used to describe a range of activities, which may involve various collaborations between groups of farmers/growers in a particular area, NGOs, research institutions, seed breeders, and other individuals or groups. The aims of PPB schemes are usually to develop crops that thrive best in that particular area, under the farming conditions most appropriate to that area and those farmers - e.g. with little to no petrochemical input (often fully organic) or added irrigation. PPB schemes tend to be driven by farmers/food growers themselves, rather than multi-national seed breeders and may contravene restrictive plant breeding laws.

A selection of articles and on PPB:

Conservation varieties

It is now legal to market a heritage wheat as a conservation variety, which Fera notes: ‘…is defined as a landrace or plant variety that is naturally adapted to local and regional conditions and is threatened by genetic erosion.

Conditions for marketing conservation variety seed include:

  • Anyone producing or marketing seed of conservation varieties must be registered with Fera.
  • The variety must have been accepted onto the UK National List of Permitted Varieties as an agricultural conservation variety.
  • The seed must be produced from a crop grown in the region of origin specified for the variety at National Listing.
  • The seed may only be marketed and used in the stated region of origin.

NB – These are paraphrased excerpts from the Fera guidelines. Click here for the full Fera guidance notes.

The full regulations are: Commission Directive 2008/62/EC, the Seed (Registration, Licensing and Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2002 and the Seed Marketing (England) Regulations 2002 as amended by The Seed (Conservation Varieties Amendments) (England) Regulations 2009


Plant Breeders’ Rights


Individuals or companies that develop a genetically homogenous, genetically stable and genetically unique variety of plant have the intellectual property rights to that new organism. These are regulated by Plant Breeders' Rights. Rights holders generally license the marketing of the seed to a merchant, who is then authorised to sell this seed to farmers.

Even though Fera has advised that distributing small quantities of wheat without a license is acceptable for the educational purpose of Bake Your Lawn, if you are not the rights holder or licensed merchant for a variety of wheat, we strongly advise you to seek the permission of the relevant breeder. 

To date (January 2011) The British Society of Plant Breeders has yet to respond to our queries as to their position on the unlicensed distribution of small quantities of wheat seeds for our Bake Your Lawn initiative.

Though varieties over 25 years old are not subject to Plant Breeders Rights, they are subject to the Seed Marketing Regulations.  Please visit our Bake Your Lawn page for conditions under which it would be permitted to market seed of a non-listed variety for non-commercial purposes.

Marketing seeds without a license for Bake Your Lawn

If you are not licensed with Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), the governmental body responsible for Seed Marketing Regulations in England, to market seed (for example you’re a miller or farmer) but would like to give away or sell small quantities of wheat seed to people to take part in Bake Your Lawn, please read the following guidance notes. We have compiled the guidance with the kind assistance of Fera.

NB: These notes are for guidance only and should not be taken as legal advice.

In December 2010, the Real Bread Campaign sought clarification on how the regulations would affect people: “growing a very small patch (e.g. 1 or 2 square metres) of wheat at home, at school, in an allotment etc, and then milling the grain to bake a loaf.” In response, Fera, advised us:

The regulations apply in relation to seed of the plants set out in Schedule 1 of the seed marketing regulations intended to be used is to produce an agricultural or horticultural crop. We take the view that what you plan to do does not fall into agricultural or horticultural crop production and therefore is out with [i.e. outside] the regulations.

NB: Fera advises that ‘Growing wheat for own use (farm saved seed) would not be commercial exploitation. However an area of 1 Hectare could be considered commercial exploitation if it was not clearly shown to be for "own use"’.

A local farmer, traditional miller, or other person not registered to market seed covered by the Seed Marketing Regulations 2010 could market (which includes giving away, as well as selling) seed wheat of a  variety (including traditional or heritage varieties not on the current UK National List) to another person or organisation, provided that:

  • The amount passed on in is small, e.g. one bag/packet per school/person, which would not exceed 15kg per bag/packet.
  • The recipient is growing the wheat for educational or other non-commercial purposes i.e. the person growing the wheat is not seeking to profit from the crop.

For more on seed marketing, heritage wheats, conservation varieties, landraces and other grain matters, click here.

Saved seed and Plant Breeders’ Rights

If a wheat variety was added to the National List of Permitted Varieties less than 25 years ago, it is subject to Plant Breeders' Rights.

Farmers who have purchased (or paid royalties to save) seed of such a variety should note that even though the wheat belongs to you, and you have the right to sell the crop, the right to sell or give it away for use as seed still belongs to the rights holder – usually the company that developed that variety, not you.  An analogy is music - you can own a CD/download/record, and sell it on, but you don’t have the right to copy it.

Even though Fera has advised that distributing small quantities of wheat without a license is acceptable for the educational purpose of Bake Your Lawn, if you are not the rights holder or licensed merchant for a variety of wheat, we strongly advise you to seek the permission of the relevant breeder – the licensed seed merchant of that variety (or an Internet search engine) will be able to help you with this information.

RAGT Seeds
With regard to Bake Your Lawn, RAGT Seeds, the company that holds the rights for the varieties Paragon and Hereward advised that they '...would have no problem with small quantities of seed being given away for this purpose.'

HGCA Recommended List

In the UK, The Home Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) draws up an annual recommended list of varieties from the National List for cereal farmers. Its recommendations are based on factors including yield and suitability for particular uses, and are broken down into four groups. All wheats in Group 1 are suitable for bread making, as are some in Group 2.

The following is a selection from the November 2010 UK National List.  Those that are noted as Group 1 or 2 are recommended by the Home Grown Cereal Authority as particularly suitable for bread making.

Varieties of winter wheat on the UK National List that are suitable for bread making include:

  • Naturastar (bred for organic growing)
  • Magister (bred for organic growing)
  • Maris Widgeon (developed in the mid-1960s, the oldest and only long straw wheat still on the National List)
  • Gallant (Group 1)
  • Hereward (Group 1)
  • Malacca (Group 1)
  • Solstice (Group 1)
  • Xi-19 (Group 1)
  • Panorama (Group 2)
  • Soissons (Group 2)
  • Einstein (Group 2)
  • Cordiale (Group 2)

Varieties of spring wheat on the UK National List that are suitable for bread making include:

  • Amaretto (bred for organic growing)
  • Paragon (Group 1)
  • Mulika (Group 1)
  • Tybalt (Group 2)
  • Ashby (Group 2)
  • Granary (Group 2)

For the latest list, please visit the HGCA website.

GM Wheat trials in the UK

March 2012

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has granted approval for Rothamsted Research to conduct an outdoor trial of a GM wheat in Hertfordshire to commence in Spring 2012. The crop is genetically modified to produce aphid 'alarm' chemicals that cause the insects to stop feeding and take flight.

GM Freeze is concerned about the impact of the trial and the impact of the crop should it ever be commercialised. The Real Bread Campaign is supporting their action.

We objected to the approval of the trial because of:

  • The lack of any data on potential health effects of the GM wheat.
  • The presence of an antibiotic resistant marker gene, despite concern raised by the European Medicines Agency that this may contribute to a rise in resistant infections in humans and animals.
  • The serious doubts about whether the GM wheat will work as stated because of aphids becoming desensitised to the alarm chemical if it is constantly produced by the wheat plants.
  • The risk of cross-contamination with other wheat crops and some grasses including couch grass which is a problem weed on UK farms.
  • Unknown impacts on predator and parasite populations, which already provide some control for aphid infestations, and unknown impacts on nearby non-GM farms from displaced aphids.
  • The risk of  contamination via pollen and seed movement could be a major problem in the future and should therefore be considered at this stage before more money is spent. Birds and small mammals could be involved in moving seed.
  • The lack of market for GM wheat anywhere on the planet making it is a waste of time and money.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has provided £1.28 million in taxpayers' money into developing the crop so far. GM freeze believe the money should have been spent on a variety of non-GM alternatives, including some identified by Rothamsted Research itself.

Any products containing GM wheat would be required to carry a GM label. Consumer opinion in the UK and more widely remains resolutely opposed to GM food and crops. There is no liability regime in place to cover losses due to GM contamination of non-GM supplies, so the costs of any difficulties arising would be born by farmers and processors - including millers and bakers.

GM Freeze is in the process of contacting millers and bakers around the UK and intends to publish a list outlining which companies would and would not consider using GM wheat, as well as those who do not answer.

For more details please visit

See also:

Not in my Loaf!

NABIM list

Each year, the National Association of British and Irish Millers (NABIM) publishes guidelines its own list of recommended wheats, which includes those it sees as suitable for bread making.

Dried gluten

Campaign working party member John Letts shares some of his views on a subject of which, partly due to labelling law, many people are unaware.

What no one seems to want to talk about is that any commercially produced flour (including stoneground organic flour) may have powdered dried gluten from other sources added without it having to be declared on the label, the reasoning being that gluten is a constituent part of wheat flour.

Wherever this gluten powder is produced (e.g. China, Canada, Australia, Brazil or other EU countries), the grain must first be milled and the gluten washed out before it is dried and re-milled into a powder that can be easily added to flour. The gluten is likely to be transported by road, perhaps over a great distance, to a port or airport and then flown or shipped to the UK. This expensive gluten is added to the flour either at the mill or in the bakery, but does not appear on the ingredients list.

There are specific regulations governing the presence of gluten in gluten free foods, but not the addition of powdered gluten to bread flour. This results in a situation in which consumers might purchase flour or bread that they believe contains only local (or at least UK) grain, unaware that the carbon footprint of their ‘artisan’ loaf is much greater because it contains imported gluten.

Many millers and commercial bakers may say that this extra gluten is required to make decent bread, but I don't believe this is true, particularly for 'real' artisan breads. I believe that excellent, well-risen bread can be made from 100% UK grain without adding extra gluten. And if this really isn't possible, then we should be honest with consumers and tell them that their 'local' loaf isn't really as local or environmentally friendly as they think it is.

I think it's misleading to tell consumers that flour is 'local' just because it was ground in a local mill, and that a loaf made with this flour is 'local' when it contains imported grain or gluten. The Real Bread Campaign standards do not mention powdered gluten, but if we are to take the carbon footprint issue seriously, and encourage consumers to believe that our Real Bread is exceptional for reasons of taste, health and the environment, than we need to take a stand on this issue and demand transparency.

Cereal breeder, archeobotanist and thatcher John Letts is a founder of the Oxford Bread Group.

This is an edited version of the article (Carbon) footprints in the dough? which appeared in issue 6 of True Loaf in January 2011.


A history of British wheats 1760 - 1930
As part of a document on its work on heritage wheat, the Brockwell Bake Association has published a history of British wheats.

Moving towards lower carbon farming
A collaboration between the Soil Association and Campden BRI looking to help reduce the carbon footprint of farming.

Wheat by Peter Shewry, Journal of Experimental Botany, Vol. 60, No. 6, pp. 1537–1553, 2009

Evidence of decreasing mineral density in wheat grain over the last 160 years.

You can find more links on our companions page.

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