A new action plan to protect food security, trade and plant health for the next five years has been announced by the Government.
The Plant Biosecurity Strategy for Great Britain, which has been published by Defra, in partnership with the Forestry Commission and the Scottish and Welsh Governments, will focus on increased e-commerce monitoring and strengthening outbreak response capabilities.
According to Defra, the new action plan will position the UK as a global leader in plant biosecurity, setting out its ‘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.’
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.
NFU vice-president David Exwood said: “Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility, from government, to those who grow and supply plants, and the public. We believe in developing sustainable plant health solutions that enable UK farmers and growers to produce crops that meet the needs of the public, the environment, and profitable and productive farming businesses.”
Additionally, the strategy sets out how more than 30 signatories, including the NFU, Royal Horticultural Society, and the Woodland Trust, will deliver a programme of behavioural change through the Public Engagement in Plant Health Accord. Described as a ‘one-of-a-kind collective commitment’ it aims to ‘kickstart a national conversation’ around biosecurity 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 amid a challenging economic backdrop.”