UK MEP's plant pests legislation comes a step nearer

MEP Anthea McIntyre's report to tackle plant pests has been approved in Strasbourg at a plenary session of the European Parliament.

The report calls for 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.

The text provisionally agreed by Parliament and Council negotiators in December 2015, endorsed by the Council in July 2016 and now given a green light by the Parliament at the early second reading will enter into force 20 days after it is published in the EU Official Journal. The regulation becomes applicable 36 months thereafter.

Plans also 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.

The Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, who sits on the parliament's agriculture committee, said: "I am delighted the vast majority of MEPs have voted through my report. It offers robust and rigorous checks against the spread of disease without over-burdening commercial growers or traders with needless obstacles."

The measures aim to tackle plant pests by stopping them entering the UK. As lead MEP on the legislation, Mcintyre "strove to balance steps to counter diseases such as ash dieback with a regulatory regime that would not needlessly shackle farmers, foresters or the horticulture trade".

McIntyre said: "We need only to look at the devastation caused by diseases such as ash dieback in Britain and xylella fastidiosa, which affected 30,000 hectares of Italian olive groves, to understand why more effective measures are necessary. Ash dieback was first confirmed in the UK in 2012 and has spread so rapidly that it is estimated it could affect 80 million ash trees.

"This time is was olives, another time it could be plums, pears or potatoes. We need to protect our biodiversity by laying down basic procedures for all 28 Members States to adopt.

"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."

"Plant pests and diseases do not respect borders and it is in the UK's interest that the EU has effective systems in place. This is good legislation, designed by the British, which will remain after we have left the EU.

"Currently the detection of outbreaks in some countries is weak due to a lack of surveillance and I am proud this will now be addressed."

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