MEPs step up fight against influx of plant 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 Parliament on Wednesday. The new regulation introduces preventive and rapid response mechanisms for suspect plant imports, steps up pest surveillance efforts in the EU and requires all member states to draw up outbreak contingency plans.

“Pests and diseases don’t respect national borders! That’s why it is so important to have EU-wide rules to protect our agriculture, horticulture and forestry through a proportionate and risk-based approach that provides for quicker decision-making, faster action and better cooperation between member states”, said rapporteur Anthea McIntyre (ECR, UK), who headed Parliament’s negotiating team. “New pests and diseases emerge all the time (…) and globalisation, climate change and trade increase the risk of future outbreaks. As a continent, our defences are only as strong as our weakest link”, she added.

What’s new

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.

Plant health certificate requirement extended 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.

“Plant passport” system extended 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.

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

Member states’ authorities may 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.

Growers whose plants undergo necessary eradication measures to wipe out specific pests will be eligible for fair compensation.

Next steps

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 at the early second reading will enter into force 20 days after it is published in the EU Official Journal. The regulation becomes applicable 36 months thereafter.

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