Defra minister says taskforce on plant health 'making progress'

Defra minister Owen Paterson says the tree health and plant biosecurity taskforce set up last year in the wake of ash dieback being discovered in the UK is making progress.

In a statement in Parliament on 16 July, he said: "Work on the first phase of the plant health risk register has advanced very quickly."

He explained that industry stakeholders had demanded "strong collaboration to ensure effective biosecurity" and to seek protected zone status in the EU before new pests and diseases arrive. He said that new trades should only be allowed when it was clear they did not represent an unacceptable risk. He said the industry wanted other EU states to do the same.

More than 700 pests and pathogens will be considered in the register, the first phase of which will be published for consultation in the autumn.

Work on contingency planning against new threats will get underway "shortly", drawing on the risk register.

Defra is about to advertise to recruit a senior-level chief plant health officer to advise ministers and industry about pests and disease risks.

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