Billions of plants and plant products move every year within the borderless internal market of the EU, or are imported from non-EU countries. The sites of their production and destination are also countless. New devastating pests, however, do not stop at the customs. It is therefore necessary that common rules are adopted at the EU level concerning the production, inspection, sampling, testing, import, movement and certification of plant material, as well as the notification, detection or eradication of the pests that the plant material might host. This is important in order to ensure the same level of phytosanitary protection within the EU and a level playing field for the numerous EU producers and traders.
New rules on plant health
The new Regulation focuses particularly on the prevention of entry or spread of plant pests within the EU territory. It is based on the conclusion that we need to allocate more resources at an early stage in order to prevent future heavy losses due to the destruction of our agricultural production or the environment by those pests.
It sets out detailed rules for the early detection and eradication of Union quarantine pests if found present in the EU territory. These rules establish obligations for the notification of outbreaks by professional operators, surveys and multiannual survey programmes, demarcation of areas for the purpose of eradication, as well as enhanced requirements for the priority pests as described above.
Under the new Regulation, all Member States will have to immediately proceed with the eradication of a Union quarantine pest if found present in an area where it was not known to be present. This means that they will no longer be allowed to proceed unilaterally with containment, namely to skip the eradication step and simply take measures to restrict the presence of the pests in a particular area.
Plant pests currently fall under different legal acts depending on their quarantine status or whether they affect the quality of plant reproductive material. This can lead to confusion among the users of those acts, within and also outside of the EU. It is thus important to ensure clarity and transparency for all affected parties, and notably for the competent authorities and the professional operators concerned.
Therefore the new Regulation will list all pests together, under three main categories:
- Union quarantine pests: Not present at all in the EU territory or, if present, just locally and under official control (examples include Citrus black spot, which is not present in the EU, and Xylella which is present in a few specific locations only). Strict measures must be taken to prevent their entry or further spread within the EU due to their increased risk for plant health. These pests have to be eradicated immediately if detected.
- Protected zone quarantine pests: Present in most parts of the Union, but still known to be absent in certain demarcated areas called ‘protected zones’ (for example grape phylloxera, which is present in the territory of the EU but not in Cyprus which is designated as protected zone for this pest). These pests are thus not allowed to enter and spread within these protected zones. Measures are taken (such as prohibition or restriction of movement of commodities, surveys, etc.) to avoid the introduction of these pests into the protected zones or to ensure their eradication if found present in these zones.
- Regulated non-quarantine pests: Widely present in the EU territory but, since they have an impact on the quality of the plants, plant reproductive material on the market should be guaranteed free or almost free from the pest (for example, the fungus Verticillium albo-atrum is known to be harmful to the apple production in the EU, therefore certified apple trees are not allowed to enter the EU market if more than 2% of the examined quantity is contaminated with the fungus). This way the starting quality and economic value of many agricultural crops as well as forestry and fruit plants can be ensured.
The new Regulation introduces the concept of “priority pests”. These are the Union quarantine pests with the most severe potential impacts on the economy, environment and/or society of the EU. They will be subject to enhanced measures concerning surveys, action plans for their eradication, contingency plans and simulation exercises. The prioritisation of the most harmful pests is necessary for the EU and the individual Member States in order to focus their resources in the most efficient manner for the protection of the agricultural production and environment. Enhanced EU co-financing to achieve these objectives is foreseen.
The list of these priority pests will be adopted through a delegated act, as close as possible to the date of application of this Regulation (end of 2019). It will be based on the criteria fixed by the Regulation and the assessments of the severity of the impacts of those pests.
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