Plant health: agriculture MEPs endorse deal to fight influx of pests to the EU

New rules to curb the growing influx into the EU of plant pests such as Xylella fastidiosa, which has been devastating Italian olive groves in 2013, were endorsed by the Agriculture Committee on Tuesday. Factors driving this influx include increased trade and climate change. The draft rules, informally approved by Parliament and Council negotiators in December 2015, would govern preventive measures for imported plant pests and rapid response mechanisms for high-risk ones.

“Plants pests and diseases do not respect borders and we need to protect our biodiversity by laying down basic procedures for all 28 EU member states to adopt. At the same time, we must be careful not to stifle trade in plants and plant products by introducing unnecessary layers of bureaucracy”, said rapporteur Anthea McIntyre (ECR, UK), who headed Parliament’s negotiating team.

“This report strikes the right balance by protecting trade while allowing us to respond to threats in a co-ordinated way across the EU”, she added.

The Agriculture Committee backed the deal by 35 votes to four, with four abstentions.

The new rules:

introduce a preliminary assessment mechanism to quickly identify plants and plant products from third countries likely to pose pest or other plant health risks and empower the EU Commission to ban them from entering the EU,

extend the plant health certificate requirement to all plants and plant products from third countries, regardless whether they are imported by professional operators, clients of postal services, internet clients or passengers in their luggage. Only private travellers importing small quantities of particular plants will be exempt,

extend the “plant passport” system to all movements of plants for planting within the EU, including those ordered through distant sales. Only products supplied directly to final users, such as home gardeners, would be exempt,

oblige all member states to establish multi-annual survey programmes to ensure timely detection of dangerous pests and contingency plans for each pest capable of entering their territory,

update existing EU rules to ensure that growers whose plants undergo necessary eradication measures to wipe out specific pests, will be eligible for fair compensation, and

allow member states’ authorities to impose eradication measures in private premises too, so as to remove all sources of infestation, but only to the extent necessary to protect the public interest.

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