The introduction and spread of plant pests, such as fungi, bacteria, viruses and insects, among food crops is a serious threat that can have far-reaching economic, social and environmental consequences. Plant pests are often introduced to areas previously unaffected through plant imports.
In Europe, protective measures against the introduction of new plant pests are based on regulatory controls on the movement of plants and plant products. The evaluation of the probability of plant pests being introduced and then spreading in an area and the assessment of the potential consequences help inform the decision making on protective measures. One of the key tasks of the EFSA Plant Health (PLH) Panel is to conduct pest risk assessments using a wide-range of specialist expertise and the most current scientific knowledge available in order to provide scientific advice to the European Commission.
EU regulatory framework
Protective measures against the introduction into the European Union (EU) of organisms harmful to plants or plant products and against their spread within the EU are established by Council Directive 2000/29/EC. It contains lists of harmful organisms that threaten plant health in the EU.
The PLH Panel started its work in the summer of 2006. On request from the European Commission the Panel assesses whether a specific plant pest should be considered for inclusion in the EU lists of harmful organisms by conducting pest categorisations and/or pest risk assessments or in some cases by evaluating pest risk assessments produced by a third party.
The PLH Panel applies a quantitative risk methodology to its work. A recent example is the pest risk assessment for the EU territory of the fall army worm Spodoptera frugiperda, a South American insect that has spread rapidly in the last two years over sub-Saharan Africa and is now spreading in India.
For more information
Plant Health – European Commission, DG Health and Consumers