Agriculture MEPs back deal to fight influx of pests to the EU

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New rules to curb the growing influx into the EU of plant pests, such as olive grove killer Xylella fastidiosa, and better equip member states to tackle their spread, were endorsed by the Agriculture Committee on Thursday. The draft rules, informally agreed by MEPs and member states last year, will introduce new preventive and rapid response mechanisms for suspect plant imports, step up pest surveillance efforts in the EU and require all member states to draw up outbreak contingency plans.

“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. These new rules strike the right balance by protecting trade while allowing us to respond to threats in a co-ordinated way across the EU”, said rapporteur Anthea McIntyre (ECR, UK), who headed Parliament’s negotiating team.

The Agriculture Committee backed the deal by 28 votes to one, with six abstentions.

The new rules:

introduce a preliminary assessment mechanism to quickly identify plants and plant products from third countries likely to pose new or high 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 low-risk 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 non-professional users, such as home gardeners, will 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,

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, and

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.

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’s Agriculture Committee still needs to be formally approved by the Parliament as a whole at the early second reading before it can enter into force. The plenary vote is now scheduled for the 24 – 27 October session in Strasbourg.

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