The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Scottish and Welsh governments have today (Tuesday, September 21) launched a 10-week consultation seeking views on potential plant biosecurity measures, to better protect plants from harmful pests and diseases.

The consultation will run until November 30, and the opinions of farmers, landowners, environmental groups, keen gardeners and nursery owners are sought, to help shape the future plant biosecurity strategy.

Specifically, views are sought on:

  • The effectiveness of the current plan and tree health regulations;
  • Ways industry and the government can work together to support a biosecure plant supply chain and ensure the safe sourcing of planting stock;
  • How they enhance the nation’s technical capability, using innovative science and technology to keep pace with emerging threats and ensure preparedness for the future; and
  • Tougher action to protect against biosecurity risks associated with trees susceptible to high-risk pests and diseases.

Launching the consultation from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Minister for Biosecurity Lord Benyon said:

The threat from plant pests and diseases is significant and growing due to globalisation and climate change. The risks to food production and our precious landscapes, trees, parks and gardens are all too real.

“We already have some of the highest biosecurity standards in Europe but as we look to build back greener from the pandemic, we want to consider any further safeguards needed to protect our natural world.

“That’s why we’re asking for views from all sectors, including horticulture, forestry and farming, to help us shape our future biosecurity strategy and ensure our trees and plants are protected for future generations.”

Scotland’s Minister for Environment and Land Reform Màiri McAllan said:

Plants underpin our environment, rural industries, well-being and biodiversity. With an ever increasing number of plant health threats, we need to work collaboratively to effectively shape our policies and safeguard against biosecurity risks in the years ahead.

“I would therefore encourage all stakeholders to contribute to that process by responding to this consultation.”

Today’s announcement coincides with the Chelsea Flower Show. This year’s RHS Show shines a spotlight on the importance of protecting biodiversity and our planet with the COP26 garden, ahead of the UK’s Presidency at the climate change summit this November.

The consultation can be found here.

Plant health

Healthy plants are essential for both the environment and the economy. In the UK, 80% of the food we eat comes from plants, they produce 98% of the oxygen we breathe and the value that our plants and trees provide to society each year is estimated at £10.5 billion.

Rising temperatures increase the risk that non-native pests and diseases – which were previously unable to survive in the UK – spreading across parts of the country. Disease outbreaks can be hugely costly to businesses, government and the wider economy.

Plant diseases like Xylella – a disease that affects over 560 different plant species and devasted olive trees in Europe – have the potential to cost the UK taxpayer millions of pounds a year if they arrived on our shores.