AHDB gives options for post-Brexit plant protection regulation

The new AHDB report looks at the various pieces of legislation impacting the use of PPPs in the UK and puts forward four broad options for post-Brexit regulation.

The AHDB Horizon market intelligence report suggests regulation can be: aligned with the EU; aligned with the US; aligned with OECD global standards regulation; aligned with a newly formulated UK policy.

PPPs currently go through a harmonised process throughout Europe, with active substances receiving general approval at EU level and specific product uses controlled at national level.

Strict hazard-based criteria mean about 58 per cent of applications are rejected by the EU, which has implications in terms of time and associated costs.

In addition, both the number of available PPPs and their efficacy are being pressured by an increasingly challenging regulatory environment and the growing resistance of pests, diseases and weeds to products now on the market.

This latest Horizon publication also outlines what standards the UK is committed to under various international agreements on human, animal and plant health and how these may affect future regulation, as well as the consequences for trade.

Report author Sarah Baker said: "There is immense complexity in this area of regulation in terms of the UK’s obligations at both EU and international level. Although plant protection may not be at the top of the priority list for negotiators, the continued supply of safe and nutritious food is of fundamental importance and these products are often key to growing healthy and profitable crops.

"In the short term, it is likely not much will change as wider Brexit issues are more likely to take precedence but the industry cannot treat it as business as usual. The UK must start thinking about what it needs to achieve through plant protection and what might be gained from a new regulatory framework. This will involve balancing myriad interests, including the UK’s reputation in the global marketplace, how UK farming and growing businesses remain economically viable, environmental considerations and customer preference."

She concluded: "Exiting the EU will not change all the laws that affect rural businesses. In many areas the UK is bound by commitments as a signatory to international agreements such as the Bern Convention and the Kyoto and Paris Climate Change Agreements. In addition, future trade arrangements and consumer sentiment will be key determinants of post-Brexit regulatory policy.

"However, the industry should be preparing for change in the regulatory framework in the medium term. While changes in the regulation of PPPs may not be a top priority for Government within the wider context of Brexit, they will come under scrutiny once the UK leaves the EU. Since a policy needs to be in place at the point of exit, it would appear likely that the vast majority of PPP regulations will be ‘lifted and shifted’’ as part of ‘The Great Repeal Bill’. However, following this, change is possible and the industry needs to think ahead regarding what it wants and needs to compete effectively in a changing global trading environment, as well as satisfying consumer preferences in a domestic market.

"The four possible outcomes outlined in this report include aligning with the EU, aligning with the US, adopting OECD global standards regulation or formulating a UK policy. Other policy options are also possible, and the final outcome will depend on a number of factors including, probably most importantly, the UK’s trading relationship with the EU post-Brexit and the issue of ‘equivalence’ of PPPs, UK agricultural policy and the UK’s obligations under international agreements. At present it is not clear which approach the UK Government will adopt, as each have associated pros and cons. This is something that AHDB will be monitoring closely and we will be keeping our levy payers informed of future developments.

"Continuing to protect human and environmental health is of fundamental importance but without a supply of safe and nutritious food, human health will also be impacted. It may transpire that the regulatory burden might not be reduced as much as farmers might hope and in any event would probably take a number of years to achieve. It is also likely that environmental, conservation, consumer and public health lobbies will continue to be influential and to exert pressure for more stringent regulation of agriculture and plant protection products in particular. Achieving the right balance between regulation and productivity in all areas is an age-old challenge and that is no less true of the position the country finds itself in now."

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