Plant health restrictions related to importing and exporting plants are an important consideration for breeders of new plants. The free movement of their varieties between nations is a vital component of being able to gain maximum return from the investment necessary to create, develop and test a new plant.

Therefore, it is important that breeders keep abreast of developments in the field of plant health legislation, regulation and practice, and use every opportunity to influence these matters.

DEFRA, the UK’s Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, has instigated a study into responsibility and cost sharing for plant health matters. In particular, the study seeks to investigate "the risks associated with trade in plants, the costs associated with assessing and managing these risks and mechanisms through which these could be shared. The findings from this study will be used to help facilitate the development of a joint industry/government strategy on plant health responsibility and cost sharing."

In particular, the study will "identify and evaluate options for:

  • the sharing of the burdens and costs of assessing the quarantine plant health risks associated with trade in plants and plant products;
  • the sharing of the burdens and costs of preventing and minimising outbreaks of quarantine plant pests and pathogens and their impact on individual businesses and the environment."

 

Under the current system, plants entering the UK from outside the EU must meet a strict set of plant health criteria. However, plants may be moved freely within the EU under the Plant Passport scheme. This system relies upon all plant health authorities within the EU enforcing the regulations to the same high standard. An increasing body of evidence suggests that this is not the case, with the finger being pointed at more than one country. Consequently, some importers and exporters are routing plant material via nations known to have a poorer record on plant health inspection.

Until all plant movements into the EU are inspected to the same high standard, it would be unworkable, unjust and ineffective for the UK authorities to act alone to impose burdens of cost and additional administration on British growers and importers. In particular, the proposed risk assessment strategy will place additional burdens on breeders of new plants that wish to exploit their new variety in the UK market, as well as on growers based in the UK who use overseas propagation facilities (an increasingly common circumstance due to the high costs of fuel and heating).

PFE recommends that growers and breeders alike should contribute to the study. Details can be found by clicking here.