Glyphosate short renewal would be "daft"

HTA horticulture head Raoul Curtis Machin has said there are rumours of a short renewal period for glyphosate, below the maximum 15 years.

Industry bodies are lobbying for a full 15-year extension when the EC standing committee votes to reauthorise the weedkiller chemical in October.

Curtis-Machin said: "There is rumoured to be a short renewal, which would be daft we think. There's only one organisation - IARC - arguing glyphosate is carcinogenic. Clearly there is no risk to anyone if they are using glyphosate properly. We hope the EU sees sense and we’re urging [Defra minister] George Eustice to vote in favour. Defra so far has been supportive."

Pro and anti-glyphosate campaigners are arguing their positions ahead of the vote. The Global Glyphosate Market report 2017-21 predicted the market to have a compound annual growth rate of 6.72% by 2012, with Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and Syngenta the biggest vendors.

Curtis-Machin added that he was also lobbying for simpler explanations of potential trade deals and terms such as from the World Trade Organisation.

Defra civil servant Nick Turner, speaking at the Landscape Show new starters' conference, said he had moved from heading horticulture in the department to looking at free trade agrrements and their impact on the agriculture and horticulture sectors.

He said his previous roles including trying to "soften" EU regulations’ impact on UK agricultiure and horticulture and added that Brexit was an opportunity to "help the sector to thrive as well as protect it against external threats".

Curtis-Machin said he thought the Great British Garden Festival (GBGF), a plant to market garden events under one banner in 2020 to boost tourism, is "a good idea as a marketing campaign" but would not replace a garden expo-one of the 2015 Ornamental Round Table Action Plan’s 12 asks of Government from industry bodies. But he added that a potential U expo had been sidelined by Brexit and would not now be a serious proposition until into the 2020s.

Turner said he supported the GBGF as "the sort of thing where we could have a role" and the Beijing 2019 horticulture expo, where "the government can help open doors".

Curtis-Machin said at the new starters' event that his role to undertand what everyone wants and to explain complex ideas to government and then find a common solution.

The HTA is also planning an RHS Chelsea Flower Show show garden for 2018 designed and built by Warnes McGarr.

The RHS is discussing a ban on Xylella host plants for 2018 shows but has yet to make a decision on how much restriction they want to place on designers, growers and suppliers and Curtis-Machin said it is "up to each organisation to assess its own risk and policy".

The RHS said it "will be communicating the requirements for Xylella high risk hosts in the floral and garden allocation letters for all shows". The RHS will also publish its new Plant Health Policy later in the autumn. Garden show plant sourcing companies such as Kelways are already choosing plants from Europe, while Chelsea designers submitted applications with details of their planting, in early August.

The HTA recently issued a statement on Xylella to not buy plants from areas where the plant disease is known to exist. Curtis-Machin said: "Our statement was by necessity fairly bland because we have such a broad membership. But we encourage every member to look at their policies. If they go further that's their call. We advocate a risk-based approach."

Puglia olive growers want to plant resistant trees but arguments at European level are holding that up.

Defra minister Michael Gove threatened to ban Xylella high risk species from import this month.

AIPH president Bernard Oosterom said: "So often it seems that just as trading in our sector increases there is some new phytosanitary threat that emerges that puts the brake pedal on our industry.  Let’s face it, national governments are terrified that some new pest of pathogen will enter their country and change it forever.  In many cases they have good reason to be fearful and at other times there is over-reaction, borders shut and plant health effectively becomes just an excuse for trade protectionism.

"The main tool for managing this threat is legislation, but that is a blunt tool indeed.  Some countries, like Australia, make it very difficult to bring plant material in and considering their island status, who can blame them. China and USA are very careful about what comes in too.

"The European Union has clear controls for plant material from outside its borders but within member states it has always struggled to implement ‘single market’ principles at the same time as preventing the spread of phytosanitary threats.  The Plant Passport system goes a long way but recent outbreaks, for example Xylella fastidiosa, have caused businesses to question further whether they really are protected.  Most countries do not offer compensation to those affected by plant health problems so with increased global trade the industry is increasingly exposed.

"Within AIPH we have noted that many of our grower association members are taking their own steps to protect their industry.  Management and certification schemes, separate from governments, are emerging and growers are working to educate their supply chain on the threats.  Maybe now is the time for the international industry to step up and take its own action to prevent plant health problems and, at the same time, protect its own future."

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