Flaws in international protocols for preventing entry and spread of plant pathogens via “plants for planting.”

Author
Date 2011.
Publication Phytopathology 101:S218.
Key Words
AbstractNumerous ‘exotic’ tree and plant pathogens have been arriving in Europe, North America and elsewhere, mainly as a consequence of increasing globalisation of trade in rooted plants and a serious flaw in international plant health (SPS) protocol. Unnamed organisms cannot be legislated against, yet up to 90% fungal pathogens in underexplored ecosystems may be unknown to science. In Europe the problem is compounded by a range of weaknesses in execution of plant health measures such as visual inspection of only ~2% of imports, infested but asymptomatic stock being given ‘clean health’ certificates, and failure of states to report new pests. Essentially, the European plant health system is overwhelmed and most UK trees, for example, must now be considered at high risk. Phytophthora ramorum, currently epidemic on oaks in the U.S. and on larch in the UK, is a symptom of these problems. The status quo is not an option: modernisation of global plant health protocol in line with the risk from unknown organisms is needed. Intensifying diagnosis at ports is unlikely to stem the tide. Options include shifting onus onto exporting countries; reducing high volume / high risk ornamental imports; importing only seed, small numbers of plants or tissue cultures under quarantine for local propagation under license; certifying nursery stock as disease free at point of sale; and educating media, trade and public on the environmental costs and consequences of these damaging introductions.
Full Citation Brasier, C.M. 2011. Flaws in international protocols for preventing entry and spread of plant pathogens via “plants for planting.” Phytopathology 101:S218.