Defra minister points out 'great opportunity'

Brexit offers a "great opportunity" to enhance biosecurity and "domestically-driven" policy of pesticides and the environment, Defra minister Lord Gardiner has said.

Speaking to Horticulture Week at Kew after awarding Bees' Needs Champions Awards certificates to schools, councils, farmers and businesses, the new Lords minister for Kew, biosecurity and pollinators said he is banking on the delayed Defra 25-year natural environment plan to answer questions for the horticulture and farming industry around environmental stewardship grants, biosecurity and a host of other concerns. He emphasised the role of volunteers' vigilance in tracking pests and diseases as well as taking up voluntary schemes to help pollinators.

Farmer and former Countryside Alliance lobbyist Gardiner said: "We're working to ensure the right policies. We've given certainty until 2020 of our support to agriculture. We're awaiting new domestic arrangements following the referendum result. At the moment the department is in discussion on future policies. There are great opportunities we must grasp in terms of having a vibrant agricultural system and having an enhanced environment. They are compatible."

On biosecurity, Lord Gardiner added: "Brexit, whatever your view, provides an opportunity for us in the country to decide policies in agriculture are domestically driven. We need to do all we can to prevent disease and ensure our regime is as secure as possible. Brexit provides an opportunity to look at our arrangements."

Lord Gardiner said of a recent Asian hornet outbreak in Gloucestershire: "We always need to be vigilant. But however hard one tries, for instance with the Asian hornet, it can come across in vehicles, which makes it very difficult to stop. One of the reasons we were able to act so quickly was voluntary observation. Beekeepers acted as an early warning system."

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