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Review of the EC plant health regime

Risks from new pests and diseases to our crops, forests, wild plants and gardens are increasing with increasing volumes of international trade. The EC plant health regime, which is intended to manage those risks, dates back to 1977 and so is in need of an overhaul. It was revised substantially though rather hurriedly in 1992 to adapt it to the Single Market, and again in 2000 in relation to imports from third countries. The UK central authority for plant health (Defra's Plant Health Division until March 2009, thereafter Fera's Policy Programme), was instrumental in getting a review initiated during the Slovenian presidency, and was involved in further discussions under the French Presidency on scope and methodology.

The first stage of this review is now underway, with the European Commission letting a contract for evaluation of the regime as the first step. In November 2009 the Food Chain Evaluation Consortium (the consultants engaged by the European Commission) distributed to Member States and to national and European stakeholders a detailed technical questionnaire on experience of the current regime, and suggestions for its improvement.

More information on the review can be found on the European Commission's website at: http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/strategy/index_en.htm

Over the last eighteen months we have been engaging with stakeholders, devolved administrations, plant health inspectors, scientists and other delivery partners to identify issues which the UK would want addressed by the review.

A number of issues are identified which fall broadly into three priority areas:

  • faster decision making as plant health risks change and new pests arrive
  • better risk targeting, including regionalisation where appropriate and a shift of inspection effort from plant produce to plants and propagating material
  • more co-operation between plant health inspectorates, and between plant health and customs services.

The first stage of the review - the evaluation of the current regime - is due to be completed by October 2010, with an action plan and timetable then being developed for implementation of agreed changes.

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