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Parliament strengthens plant health policy

EP votes in favour of a strong position on plant health rules and lays ground for ambitious outcome in further discussions with Council The quality, competitiveness and sustainability of the food production chain depends on healthy plants and in particular on the health of the planting material: the seed. Together with a number of business organisations along the agri-food chain, ESA had advocated to support the Commission's original proposal which modernises and improves the EU's plant health legislation.

While all operators had made specific proposals on details to further improve the new legislation, all had been unequivocal in their rejection of a new proposal introduced into the AGRI Committee Report, which completely upturned the EU's policy on imports of plants and plant products. Imports are a key pillar of plant health rules, as operators are constantly moving plant material around the world in order to ensure quality and diversity of products to the end consumer. While the EU champions an open system that allows for movement of plants unless specifically prohibited, these new proposals would have subjected all movement of plants to a specific authorisation process.

“Specifically the seed sector has a long standing experience with moving plant material across countries and continents. And our customers, farmers and vegetable growers in Europe and worldwide expect us to make sure that our products are free from pests and diseases. But to control products which are known to be safe and healthy just for the matter of principle just means more costs, more delay and higher prices. We should concentrate Europe’s efforts where the real risks are. The EP’s approach clearly underlines that", said Garlich von Essen, Secretary General of ESA European Seed Association, underlining the seed industry’s position.

When imported into the EU, it is crucial to ensure that plants and seeds are free from dangerous pests and diseases to protect Europe’s environment, farmers, growers and all operators active in the plant sector. "Outbreaks of pests and diseases can have devastating effects, including on the livelihood of operators. That is why we pay special attention to the health of our seeds and that control and prevention are better than costly measures to cure a problem", adds v. Essen. “But the AGRI Committee’s idea would have subjected all seed and plant products, even those that do not carry any risk for Europe’s consumers and farmers; clearly, this would have been disproportionate. And very costly for business and consumers – and taxpayers."

"We welcome the strong role played by the Rapporteur MEP Hynek Fajmon in bringing this important topic to the foreground", concludes v. Essen. "The Plenary of the European Parliament has shown strong leadership and a clear signal to Council that a risk-based approach is key to protect the environment, trade and, in the end, the consumer".

Source: Agripress    04:26:00|16/04/2014