5 years ago



Moving towards better

Moving towards better European collaboration in terms of plant quarantine T. Olivier, A. Chandelier and S. Steyer CRA-W: Pest Biology and Biovigilance Unit Although the European Union has had a common protection regulation against the introduction of harmful organisms in plants and plant products in place since 1976, the harmonious application of the regulation within the various Member States currently remains a challenge. In fact, such harmonisation is faced with several constraints that pose a challenge to the various players working in the field of plant quarantine. The following non-exhaustive examples are given: the lack of a community reference laboratory for plant quarantine, the problems with adapting the regulation to emerging pests and diseases, international trade pressure, climate change, the challenges associated with the integration of new Member States and, above all, the lack of a European wide Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) for the majority of quarantine pests covered by directive 2000/29/EC. It is worth noting that the application of the directives on plant quarantine remains the national responsibility of each Member State. The National Plant Protection Organisations (NPPOs) must therefore find a balance between the protection of their national agriculture and free trade, advocated by World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the European Customs Union. This balance must comply with the sanitary and phytosanitary measures of the WHO (SPS - Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures agreement) which requires that the restrictions on imports for quarantine purposes must be based on a transparent scientific analysis (PRA). For the import sector studied, this analysis has a twofold objective. On the one hand, the pest risk is evaluated by assessing the likelihood of the entry and establishment of a new pathogen that may be harmful to the agriculture and environment of a given territorial area, thereby establishing scientific evidence. On the other hand, the pest risk is managed, which consists of providing concrete measures which may be taken to avoid the entry and establishment of the pathogen in terms of the economic and environmental repercussions at stake. It is in this difficult context that different European initiatives have recently emerged in order to harmonise the Union policy built around the unifying theme of the European PRA. The European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in close collaboration with the various NPPO’s and The European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation (EPPO), were the driving forces behind these initiatives which led to the funding of various research projects. Given the central role of the PRAs in the harmonisation of the European Union’s plant quarantine policy, the European Commission and the EFSA each decided to finance a research project related to this subject. On the one hand, this concerns the PRATIQUE project that forms part of the 7th Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7) and, on the other, a Prima Phacie project financed by the EFSA. The PRATIQUE project aims to improve the PRA procedures (the EPPO scheme mainly) in order to improve their reliability and manageability for the end users. This improvement means, among other things, putting in place a structured inventory of the data required for the EU PRAs and improving the integration of the notion of uncertainty in the final result of the PRAs. The Prima Phacie project tests several PRA methodologies on harmful organisms classified within the various biological kingdoms in order to evaluate their robustness. The aim is to select one or a number of methodologies for future application by the EFSA in order to fulfil, in collaboration with expert groups and the 28

EPPO, its role as pest risk assessor for the EU. In order to initiate and populate these PRAs with scientific data, the European Commission has financed the research project Euphresco II (as a follow up to the first project under the same name). In this way, the Commission sought to establish a self-supporting networking structure for the various research institutions and European financiers. It was done in order to combine the expertise and financing of the various Member States, to avoid the problems of duplicates and inconsistencies and to identify emerging issues. This structure, in which the Belgian NRL is involved (CRA-W and ILVO) will therefore perform a lobbying role with the Commission in order to orientate its subsidy policy and its choice of PRAs towards the themes identified by the Euphresco network of experts. Lastly, the Q-Bol project, also financed by the Commission through the FP7 and which aims to develop DNA barcoding for a fast and precise identification of the quarantine organisms and in turn the improved monitoring of the EU territory, supplements the overall efforts. In conclusion, although the exact role of the various players mentioned above remains to be defined, the formation of two highly interconnected networks is emerging (see figure 1). First of all, the PRA network consists of the Directorate General for Health and Consumers (DG SANCO), in partnership with the NPPOs, as pest risk manager for the EU on the one hand, and the EFSA, supported by the EPPO and its group of experts for the assessment of this risk, on the other. The second network, which can be described as the plant quarantine research network, consists of the Euphresco structure in partnership with the EPPO on the one hand, and the Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG Research) on the other. The latter network will initiate and populate the European PRAs undertaken by the first network. Via the projects referred to in this article, the structure of the future European quarantine Phytopathology research network is beginning to form. Figure 1: Diagram of the two PRA and Plant Quarantine Research interconnected networks 29