Xylella fastidiosa: UK secures added EU protections
DEFRA published the following Press Release on Friday 20th October:
Increased protections against the plant disease, Xylella, which affects olive, coffee and citrus trees has been approved.
The European Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCOPAFF) has approved (Thursday 19 October) increased protections against Xylella fastidiosa. The plant disease has devastated olive plantations in southern Italy and is killing plants and trees in areas across Europe.
Last month the Environment Secretary Michael Gove wrote to the European Commission stressing that if EU protections were not increased, we would consider our own national measures, which could include a suspension of high risk imports. The disease, which could be deadly to our oak trees, would be difficult to eradicate if it was to arrive, which is why the UK has pushed hard for these increased protections to help keep it out.
The new measures incorporate key proposals from the UK and include strengthened movement requirements on high risk plants and require quicker responses to potential findings of the disease.
Following the vote Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: "Xylella poses a serious threat to our plants, trees and horticulture sector and as I made clear to Commissioner Andriukaitis last month, we need to see robust action by the EU against the disease.
"I am therefore pleased this has been taken forward. These increased protections will add to our own efforts to protect our horticulture sector and our famous ancient oaks which have stood tall and proud for centuries as a national symbol of strength and survival.
"While the measures we pressed for will come into force, we will keep the risk level under continuous review to determine if further measures are needed to keep the disease out of the UK.
"When we leave the EU we will have an opportunity to examine all our national biosecurity measures on plant imports to ensure they are as robust as possible and we are doing everything we can to protect the UK against diseases like Xylella."
The new measures will take effect around the end of November, following a formal adoption process in the European Commission and will supplement measures already in place in the UK which require certain plants to be notified to the plant health authorities when they are brought into the country. This enables the Animal and Plant Health Agency to carry out targeted inspections as well as surveillance for disease in the wider environment.
Adam Wigglesworth, former HTA President and chair of the Xylella panel session at the HTA Conference two weeks ago told GTN Xtra: “We need to see the detail, but the seriousness of the Governments stance and SCOPAFF's decision must surely focus any doubters minds on the potential devastating consequences of an outbreak.
"The governments chief plant health officer, Professor Nicola Spence, said in her letter to the trade in September “the best defence against the disease is to prevent its arrival” ... “careful sourcing... traceability and good Hygiene” are key. The Industry working together will not guarantee that this disease does not arrive in the UK, but it will help reduce the risk of its occurrence and the subsequent effect.
Raoul Curtis-Machin, Director of Horticulture at the HTA, adds from the trade association's perspective: "Our initial response is to welcome this move to strengthen the emergency measures. Whilst we still need to see the detail, the compulsory testing of the high risk species will add another layer of security. However, we will be looking at this one closely because we know that this disease is tricky to spot. Robust policing of the proposed testing will be critical to its effectiveness.
"It’s good to see the Government taking action. As we learned from ash dieback, we need to step up our efforts before a disease arrives on our shores and all work together to keep it out. Doing nothing is not an option and it’s encouraging to see the growing list of businesses signing up to the HTA statement."
Transcript: Commissioner Andriukaitis, C/O UKREP, 7 September 2017
Dear Commissioner, Thank you for our conversation yesterday. It was good to talk and I very much look forward to meeting soon.
As we discussed, protecting plant health is a key priority for me. Xylella fastidiosa has already had major impacts in parts of the EU so, as I highlighted in our conversation, preventing further spread is of paramount importance. To that end, I am grateful that the Commission has introduced emergency legislation and has initiated a further review in response to recent developments.
Nevertheless, I am very concerned about the increase in findings in the EU, most recently in mainland Spain, which raises serious questions about the robustness of the EU’s present arrangements and the wisdom of allowing high risk species to move across borders unchecked. With the ongoing risk of infected plants being moved to new areas, it is vital we move swiftly to strengthen our protection, including through increased testing and setting higher biosecurity standards for production. Foremost, this needs to address the real threat from the hosts most commonly associated with recent outbreaks, and which are traded in large volumes around the EU (most notably, Polygala myrtifolia, Olea europaea, Rosmarinus officinalis, Lavandula sp, Nerium oleander and Prunus dulcis).
In light of what is at stake, I have asked my officials to explore national measures to mitigate the imminent danger of Xylella fastidiosa being introduced into the UK, which could be introduced in the event that the appropriate level of protection is not forthcoming through the EU review. This may include enhanced import requirements for plants from other EU countries or a suspension of imports of high risk species.
You mentioned that a vote on the updated Emergency Decision is anticipated later in September. Please do let me know if the UK can provide any additional support and I would very much welcome an update on the Commission’s position before the vote.
With every good wish, Michael Gove The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP From the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Xylella fastidiosa presents a serious threat to plants in the UK. The best defence against the disease is to prevent its arrival, which is why it is essential Government and industry work together to keep it out of the country.
Xylella is a very infectious bacterial disease that is already devastating olive trees in southern Italy and affecting a range of trees and plants in Spain and France. The impact on the sector were Xylella to arrive in the UK would be significant - commercially and environmentally important trees and plants would be at risk, while restrictions would include a ban on movement of host plants from premises within 10km of an outbreak for at least five years. In countries with significant outbreaks the disease has already proved impossible to eradicate, with major restrictions imposed on businesses in outbreak areas.
Government is taking strong action to prevent the arrival of the disease. In Europe we are pushing for greater protections and have asked the European Commission to strengthen requirements for high risk hosts to provide additional assurance that they are free of the disease when moved. In the UK, we are carrying out inspections of all consignments of host plants of Xylella imported from outside the EU and have an inland surveillance programme, targeted at host plants being grown and traded. We are also disseminating publicity material, including information on the high risk plants and guidance on sourcing plants.
Many plant traders are already on the front foot against Xylella. Nurseries and garden centres have already committed not to bring Xylella host plants into the UK from countries or regions of the EU where the disease is present and management practices are being employed around careful sourcing, traceability and good hygiene measures, to reduce the risk of introducing the disease.
To keep our country protected against Xylella it is vital that all plant importers and traders follow this lead. I urge you to make careful decisions on sourcing plants, particularly those from countries where Xylella is present, and review on-site measures to reduce the risk of disease introduction and spread. Guidance is available on the plant health portal1 and on GOV.UK 2 while the HTA have also published a ‘5 point plan’3 against Xylella for those involved in the commercial supply and receipt of plants.
Xylella is not currently in the UK and it is essential that all of us with an interest in a healthy, thriving plant and horticulture industry do all we can to keep it that way and protect our environment and businesses.
Let’s work together to keep Xylella out.
Yours faithfully Professor Nicola Spence Chief Plant Health Officer for the UK