The EU’s new Plant Health Regulation (Plant Health Law) on protective measures against plant pests came into force on 14th December 2019, writes Ron van der Ploeg. The new regulation aims to modernise the plant health regime and strengthen biosecurity controls to protect the EU from quarantine pests by preventing the introduction and effectively dealing with any outbreaks.
The EU Plant Health Law applies to non-EU imports and movements within the EU. From 14 December 2019, all plants (including living parts of plants) need to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate to enter into the EU, unless they are listed in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/2019 as exempted from this general requirement.
It requires plant businesses (growing, importing/exporting plants) to have formal processes in place that allow tracking and traceability of plants and plant material. Simply put: plant material moving from a third country into the EU will require a phytosanitary certificate; and plant material moving within the EU, within individual countries and even between premises of a single business, will require a plant passport. Plant passports are not required for direct supply to final users (i.e. members of the public). But this excludes distance selling, where plant material sold to a final user will require a plant passport. Plant passports have to meet specific requirements in terms of content and format, and they have to be attached to the ‘trade unit’ of the plants. This could mean a tray of plants, but in many cases, it will mean the individual pot or even directly onto the plant.
If plants are supplied boxed, the box could carry a single plant passport label instead of a label on every plant. Similarly, if multiple pot plants were supplied in a tray, the tray could carry the relevant plant passport. If the consignment of plants were supplied on a trolley then the plant passport can be attached to the trolley (if the consignment was split, the separate packages would need new plant passports to maintain traceability). For cases where the smallest trade unit has mixed plants e.g. mixed baskets then a single plant passport listing the different plant species can be used. A plant passport can be attached to a trolley of a mix of species, even when those species are in separate pots or other units (e.g. trays or boxes), only if that trolley is going directly to retail and traceability is maintained for the all the plants and plant products on that trolley. In such cases, the PP must be attached to the trolley, and not travel in the cab with the delivery driver (Source: NFU update December 2019).
One significant change that the Plant Health Law brings is that the 35 genera/species on the high-risk list will be prohibited entry into the EU, unless the third country formally applies for a derogation, and can guarantee that plants are free of EU quarantine organisms.
The Plant Health Law empowers the Commission to establish a list of the priority pests. The EU’s Official Journal published on 11th October 2019, the names of 20 quarantine pests as priority pests, including Xylella fastidiosa, the Japanese beetle, the Asian long-horned beetle, Citrus greening and Citrus Black Spot, whose economic, environmental and social impact on EU territory is the most severe. The selection of those pests is based on an assessment carried out by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre and the European Food Safety Authority, which takes into account the probability of spreading, establishment and consequences of those pests for the Union. For these specific pests, Member States will have to adopt enhanced provisions: information campaigns to the public in case they are present in their territory, implement annual surveys, prepare contingency plans, simulation exercises and action plans for eradication.