MEPs call for tougher import checks to protect EU citrus trees

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Draft EU measures to help prevent citrus fruit and tree pests being imported into the EU are not good enough to protect EU growers, says a resolution voted on Thursday. MEPs want more stringent rules and checks to prevent the spread of pests such as citrus black spot fungus and the false codling moth.

“It is crucial to have proper rules in force to avoid a Xylella-like drama in EU areas producing citruses. We cannot apply a wait-and-see approach, nor can we stand idly by when the EU Commission is not doing enough to protect us from diseases such as citrus black spot and citrus canker,” said Clara Eugenia Aguilera García (S&D, ES) who led the initiative to toughen the Commission’s draft measures.

“In the today′s resolution we are proposing actions based on scientific opinions of the European Food Safety Authority and the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation and we expect the Commission to follow our lead”, she added.

Parliament approved the resolution calling on the Commission to modify its implementing directive by 463 votes to 168, with three abstentions.

Random checks, cold treatment and better traceability

The draft implementing directive, as proposed by the Commission, does not reduce the risk that alien pests could be imported into the EU to an acceptable level – tougher rules are needed, say MEPs.

For instance, to prevent citrus black spot, a fungal disease caused by Phyllosticta citricarpa being introduced into the EU, MEPs say that the rules should require proof that a sample of at least 600 fruits per 30 tonnes was checked before packaging and that fruit showing any symptoms of the disease was properly tested. Similar visual examination of a sample consisting of at least 200 fruits per 30 tonnes should take place at the entry point into the EU, they add.

Citrus fruit that could carry false codling moth (Thaumatotibia leucotreta) larvae should undergo cold treatment (24 days in 0.55ºC with 3 days precooling) or similar equally effective and sustainable treatment before being imported into the EU, MEPs say. They also call for measures to improve the traceability of imported citrus fruits.

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