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Plants: Export Controls

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 125065, tabled on 18 February 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to ensure free movement of cultivated plant biodiversity.

Answered on

28 February 2022

UK plant health controls take a risk-based approach informed by the evidence and balance ensuring robust biosecurity with the facilitation of trade. The threat from plant pests and diseases is significant and growing due to globalisation and climate change.

The increase in trade and travel has resulted in an escalation in the volume and diversity of plants and plant products entering the UK from sources across the world. These plant imports can act as hosts or vectors and are one of the primary ways in which new pests and diseases can be introduced.

High plant health and biosecurity standards keep harmful pests and diseases, like Xylella fastidiosa, out of the UK, benefiting both the horticultural trade and the environment in the long term. The UK has some of the highest plant health and biosecurity standards in the world, and we have been clear we will not compromise on these standards. They are integral to supporting and protecting the horticultural industry overall as well as sustaining our food supply and natural environment.

The UK Plant Health Risk Group is continuously reviewing risks to plant biosecurity and identifying actions needed to mitigate the most significant threats. These include keeping our regulatory regime up to date, carrying out focused surveillance and inspections, contingency planning, research, and awareness raising as well as identifying areas where intervention would not be helpful or justified.

Further, the UK is a member of both:

o the OECD Seed Schemes which provide harmonised standards for the international trade of seed of regulated plant species for agriculture, and

o the OECD Forest Seed and Plant Scheme which ensures Forest Reproductive Material (FRM) is produced, controlled and traded according to harmonised standards.

The EU has granted equivalence to the UK for agricultural seed (excluding production of vegetable seed), fruit and vegetable propagating material, and forest reproductive material (FRM), ensuring these commodities may be marketed in the EU.

The UK Plant Health Information Portal has published Defra guidance to importers and exporters of plant material to support trade facilitation.