Risks to plant health posed by EU import of soil or growing media
Following a request from the European Commission, in this scientific opinion the EFSA Panel on Plant Health evaluates the risk of entry into the European Union of harmful organisms associated with soil or growing medium attached to plants for planting, as commodities, and as contaminants on imported consignments. The Panel compared several definitions of soil and growing media and used, in this opinion, the current definition for growing media of the International Plant Protection Convention. In Council Directive 2000/29/EC, no specific definition of soil and growing media is provided but growing media are described in two different ways. From the soil and growing media and/or components thereof identified through extensive literature searches, the Panel distinguished eight groups of soil and growing media and assessed the probability of association of these groups with harmful organisms. A total of 207 scientific publications were reviewed by the Panel in order to identify and rate the effectiveness of options that could reduce the risk of entry of pests posed by the import of soil and growing media. A detailed description and evaluation of the requirements for soil and growing media laid down in current EU legislation on plant health and in a few other regions of the world is provided. The Panel found that the ‘prohibition of import’ is the only phytosanitary measure with a very high effectiveness and a low uncertainty. The effectiveness of the phytosanitary measures ‘pest free production site and preparation of consignment’ is rated as moderate to high with an uncertainty rated as medium to high. Although several phytosanitary measures in these categories of risk reduction options could be highly effective, EU legislation does not provide clear formulation and guidance on their implementation.