Government lays out strategy to protect food security and plants

The five-year plan will focus on combating pests and viruses which threaten UK plants, raising public awareness, and using new technology to protect biosecurity.

The government has today set out a new strategy to protect the country’s plants which will help to fight the climate crisis and boost food security.

New figures highlight the importance of strengthening biosecurity, as plants provide £15.7 billion annually to the British economy.

Published by Defra, in collaboration with the Forestry Commission and the Scottish and Welsh governments, the strategy aims to build a ‘world class biosecurity regime’ and a secure plant supply chain.

two green leafed plants in brown pot

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.’

A revised import regime which will ensure plants can easily be traced back and new civil sanctions will be put into place to reduce the risk of pests and diseases entering the country.

The strategy will also see the Animal and Plant Health Agency’s Internet Trading Unit expanding to monitor online retailers and social media for the trade of high-risk plant products.

Over 30 signatories, including Defra, the Royal Horticultural Society, National Farmers Union and the Woodland Trust, are set to engage the public through a behavioural change campaign, encouraging behaviours which protect tree and plant health.

Each nation has committed to funding research on plant health, while Fera Science Ltd, the Royal Horticultural Society and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew will also be supported to work on their own plant health research.

Additionally, the UK Plant Health Alliance will develop a new five-year roadmap to develop the Plant Healthy scheme which provides certificates to horticultural nurseries, businesses and charities.

Sara Lom, The Tree Council CEO, said: ‘The Tree Council was created nearly 50 years ago in response to Dutch elm disease and now leads activity into the devastating impacts of ash dieback. From first-hand experience, we know that effective biosecurity is vital in defence of Britain’s trees and plants.

‘We welcome the launch of the Plant Biosecurity Strategy for Great Britain and look forward to working with Defra and partners to protect our treescape.’

Photo by Brina Blum


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