PHSI gets flak over ramorum rules

Growers set to give their views on disease fears

Plant health principals have been accused of “bad science” as Phytophthora ramorum regulations look set to be relaxed next month. Government fears of devastation to rhododendrons and other woody plants have proved unfounded and two EU states are set on relaxing rules to destroy plants close to those thought to be infected. Owner John Middleton of Hampshire-based Shelley Common Nursery said the Government should compensate him for the £60,000 he has lost in sales because of customer fears over the disease and having to destroy stock. He added that the HTA should question DEFRA’s Plant Health & Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) on its “fraudulent science”. “The organism is merely one of thousands,” he added. “Scientists have not done research into the effects of pollution, so the science is null and void.” The HTA will meet PHSI principal inspector Dr David Slawson on 9 May in York to discuss legislative controls on Phytophthora ramorum. The controls are due for review at an EU meeting of plant health authorities in Brussels on 15-16 May, which Slawson will chair. HTA adviser David Brown will tell Slawson grower members’ views, amid calls from Germany and Holland for a move away from a destruction-based policy towards management of the disease. The European Commission 204/4261 EC ruling could be relaxed after the feared devastation from the disease failed to take hold since it hit the headlines in 2004. Slawson said he hopes Middleton’s is a “lone voice” because Phytophthora ramorum “certainly is a primary pathogen”. He added that plant health policy does not allow for compensation. Slawson said the meeting with the industry is important so it can give its view, but “the risk from the disease is still unacceptable”.

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