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Consultation launched to inform new Plant Biosecurity Strategy

UK: Consultation to protect plants from harmful pests and diseases

Keen gardeners, nursery owners, farmers, landowners, and environmental groups are all being encouraged to help shape the country’s future plant biosecurity strategy, as a 10-week consultation is launched to protect the country from the threat of plant pests and diseases.

Healthy plants are essential for both the environment and the economy. In the UK, 80% of the food we eat comes from plants, they produce 98% of the oxygen we breathe, and the value that our plants and trees provide to society each year is estimated at £10.5 billion.

Great Britain already has some of the most robust biosecurity measures in the world, but our approach is kept under constant review to ensure these standards are maintained and plants are protected as we face emerging challenges.

Rising temperatures increase the risk that non-native pests and diseases, which were previously unable to survive in the UK, will spread across parts of the country. Disease outbreaks can be hugely costly to businesses, the government, and the wider economy. Plant diseases like Xylella – a disease that affects over 560 different plant species and devasted olive trees in Europe - have the potential to cost the UK taxpayer millions of pounds a year if they arrived on our shores.

The joint Defra, Scottish, and Welsh Government consultation sets out a new vision for plant health and potential measures to strengthen the existing biosecurity regime. Specifically, views are sought on:

  • the effectiveness of our current plant and tree health regulations;
  • ways industry and the Government can work together to support a biosecure plant supply chain and ensures the safe sourcing of planting stock;
  • how we enhance the nation’s technical capability, using innovative science and technology to keep pace with emerging threats and ensure preparedness for the future; and
  • tougher action to protect against biosecurity risks associated with trees susceptible to high-risk pests and diseases.

This consultation supports Defra’s campaign - Plant for Our Planet – which aims to inspire the nation to get planting, helping us to build back greener and step up our efforts to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. Our plants have a crucial role in fighting climate change, providing a home for nature, and bringing numerous environmental, economic, social, and well-being benefits.

The new strategy will align with the forthcoming GB Invasive Non-Native Species Strategy, ensuring a joined-up approach to the restoration and improvement of the environment as set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan, where we have committed to improving biosecurity.

The consultation closes on 30 November 2021 and can be found here.

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