McIntyre claims success in EU plant health negotiations

Anthea McIntyre MEP has negotiated a package of measures to tackle plant pests by stopping them entering the country.

Approval by the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee on 26 April means the McIntyre report will now go to the full parliament for final approval with a recommendation to adopt it as EU law.

The report on Plant Health was originally proposed by the EU Commission and, as lead MEP on the legislation, McIntyre has been responsible for steering it through the parliament.

In negotiations with the EU Council and Commission officials ahead of the committee vote, McIntyre "strove to balance steps to counter diseases such as ash dieback with a regulatory regime that would not needlessly shackle growers or the horticulture trade".

Once it becomes law, the package will set out new basic standards to ensure EU countries work together to address plant pests and diseases. These include mandatory surveillance for high risk pests and better use of the plant passport system.

McIntyre, MEP for the West Midlands, said: "As an example of how serious this issue is, Xylella fastidiosa is just one of the nasty bacterium that causes a range of diseases destroying trees and shrubs. There are many others that will wreak havoc with our plant life and plant products if we let them.

"The UK already has robust controls in place but approaches vary  widely from country to country. As a continent we are only as strong as the weakest link.

"Plants pests and diseases do not respect borders and we need to protect our biodiversity by laying down basic procedures for all 28 Members States to adopt. At the same time we must be careful not to stifle trade in plants and plant products by introducing unnecessary layers of bureaucracy. 

"This law will strike the right balance, protecting trade while allowing us to respond to threats in a co-ordinated way across the EU."

There is no definite date to go to Parliament yet, though it will be in the coming months, depending on the weight of other business. The last sitting before summer is week beginning July 4, if not it would be September.

The report's proposals include:

  • Compulsory general surveillance by Member States for plant pests and diseases. Surveillance is currently only required when emergency control measures are in place.
  • Mandatory surveillance for specified priority pests. The UK Government is likely to press for  UK potato pests to be included on the list.
  • Harmonisation of the plan passport system. Passports will not be required for plants sold to non-professional users, such as gardeners, unless the transaction takes place over the internet.
  • The introduction of preliminary assessments for plants imported from outside the EU which are likely to pose a risk. If this test suggests an unacceptable pest or disease risk, the product would be provisionally banned from the EU pending a full risk assessment.
  • Powers enabling the Commission to quickly impose a temporary ban or restrict the movement of plants or products found to pose previously undetected risks.

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