New five-year vision for plant health

A new action plan to protect plants from pests and diseases has been published by Defra, in partnership with the Forestry Commission and the Scottish and Welsh Governments.

The Plant Biosecurity Strategy for Great Britain sets out a five-year vision for plant health, consisting of an action plan to secure national biosecurity, protect native species and drive economic growth. It positions the UK as a global leader in plant biosecurity, setting out a vision to create a new biosecurity regime and bio-secure plant supply chain, which will safeguard food security and help mitigate the effects of climate change. It comes following updated figures which show that plants provide an annual value of £15.7 billion to the United Kingdom.

Specific actions include expanding the Animal and Plant Health Agency’s Internet Trading Unit to step up monitoring of online retailers and social media sites for the trade of high-risk plant products, in order to stop potentially devastating pests and diseases from entering the country. Additionally, the strategy sets out how more than 30 signatories, including Defra, the Royal Horticultural Society, National Farmers Union and the Woodland Trust, will deliver an ambitious programme of behavioural change across society through the Public Engagement in Plant Health Accord. This one-of-a-kind collective commitment will kickstart a national conversation around biosecurity and promote the actions that the public can take to protect tree and plant health.

Lord Benyon, Minister for Biosecurity, said:“This landmark strategy sets out how we will protect Great Britain’s plants, with the government, industry and the public working together to tackle the risks posed by plant pests and diseases. In light of climate change, tackling these varied and mounting risks will be critical to maintaining our food security, as well as facilitating safe trade amidst a challenging economic backdrop.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates this Government’s ironclad commitment to protecting and restoring our natural environment for future generations, as we deliver on our tree planting targets and ambition to achieve net zero.”

Nicola Spence, UK Chief Plant Health Officer, said:“Plant pests and diseases know no borders. As the global trade in plants and plant products continues to grow, our precious ecosystems, native species and biosecurity are at risk. The resultant threats posed to our treescapes, food security and the global economy are all too real.

“Therefore, I am proud to officially launch the Plant Biosecurity Strategy for Great Britain, which will deliver a step change in our plant health protections, actions and behaviours. This will position Great Britain as a global leader in plant biosecurity and set an example for the world to follow.”

Lesley Griffiths, Welsh Government Minister for Rural Affairs, said:“The Plant Biosecurity Strategy emphasises our commitment to protect the health of our plants. Plants are the foundation of our ecosystems and provide life to the whole food chain. The strategy outlines what we will do, working with others, to further protect this vital resource.”