Plant Health: Commission updates rules to better protect Europe’s crops and forests from harmful pests and diseases

EU legislation on plant health aims to better protect crops, fruit, vegetables, ornamentals and forests from quarantine pests (harmful organisms) by preventing their introduction into the EU or their spread within the EU. EU plant health legislation contributes to sustainable agricultural and horticultural production through plant health protection. It also contributes to the protection of public and private green spaces, forests and the natural landscape .

The EU plant health regime is established by Council Directive 2000/29/EC. The Annexes to this Directive provide a list of the harmful organisms which are regulated in the EU. The Annexes also list the requirements that plants, plant products and other objects need to fulfil in order to be allowed to be imported into the EU or to be moved within the EU, to prevent that quarantine pests are introduced or are spread by the trade/movement of those plants, plant products and other objects.

Today, Member State experts meeting at the Standing Committee on Plant Health endorsed a Commission proposal to update these Annexes. The goal aims at ensuring that the level of protection of plant health in the EU remains very high. This amendment includes: the addition of the bronze birch borer Agrilus anxius and the pepper weevil Anthonomus eugeniito the list of regulated harmful organisms for the whole EU, while the oriental chestnut gall wasp Dryocosmus kuriphilus and the oak processionary moth Thaumetopoea processionea will be regulated only for a restricted part of the EU (protected zones). Three organisms are deleted from the list of EU quarantine pests (the camellia petal blight fungus Ciborinia camelliae, the brown rot fungus Monilinia fructicola and the plant virus Citrus! vein enation woody gall) due to their widespread presence in the EU and the availability of effective control possibilities to limit their impact. In addition, the import and the internal movement requirements for plants and plant products of over 50 plant genera/species or plant classes are upgraded to ensure that they are in line with the latest technical knowledge and therefore that they are effective in preventing the introduction into, and the spread within, the EU of quarantine pests.

(Source: DGSanco Website)

Western corn rootworm withdrawal from the list of harmful organisms for plant

Two legal acts withdrawing the western corn rootworm from the list of regulated harmful organisms with quarantine status in the EU and repealing the related emergency measures to prevent the spread within the EU were published on 7th February 2014 in the Official Journal.

The western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera Le Conte) is a non-native insect pest of maize, endemic in North America and first detected in Europe in 1992. The specific control measures put in place in 2003 could not prevent its spread within the EU as this pest is now established in 13 EU Member States, who represent a large part of the EU maize cultivation area.

According to an impact assessment carried out by the Commission, it is neither feasible to pursue an eradication of this pest from the EU, nor to prevent its further spread into the areas which are currently free. Therefore, on request of the agricultural sector, the regulation of the western corn rootworm as a quarantine pest was considered no longer appropriate. Experience gained with this pest shows that maize production can coexist with the western corn rootworm, since there are effective and sustainable methods for the control of this pest. Among these, crop rotation should be considered the preferred method not only because it is the most effective but also because of its many additional agronomical and environmental benefits.

A Commission Recommendation on measures to control this pest in a sustainable way in areas where it is present in the EU was also adopted on 7th February 2014. It suggests that:

“Sustainable biological, physical and other non-chemical methods should be preferred to chemical methods, if the former provide satisfactory pest control. Therefore, control of Diabrotica by the professional users should be achieved or supported by the following actions:

(a) crop rotation;

(b) use of biocontrol agents;

(c) adaptation of maize sowing date to avoid that germination coincides with larval hatching;

(d) cleansing of agricultural machinery and removal of volunteer maize plants and other hygiene measures.

Crop rotation should be preferred in view of its high effec­tiveness to control Diabrotica and its environmental and longer term agronomical benefits.”biob

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