Food Security

, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 49–70

Evolution of the international regulation of plant pests and challenges for future plant health

  • Alan MacLeod
  • Marco Pautasso
  • Mike J. Jeger
  • Roy Haines-Young
Original Paper


Plant pathogens and invertebrates harmful to plants, collectively referred to as plant pests, continue to threaten food security. International cooperation and regulatory systems to inhibit the spread of plant pests began formally in 1878. Initially seven countries worked together and agreed phytosanitary measures against grape phylloxera, Phylloxera vastatrix (=Daktulosphaira vitifoliae). There are now 172 countries that are contracting parties to the International Plant Protection Convention, a treaty that aims to prevent the introduction and spread of pests of plants and plant products, and to promote appropriate measures for their control. Apparently contradictory interests between international trade, which has facilitated the spread of plant pests, and the protection of plants are mutually recognised in global trade and phytosanitary agreements. The principle that risk management measures should provide an appropriate level of protection without undue interference in trade was established within the plant protection agreements at the beginning of the 20th Century and is still fundamental to risk management policy today. Globally ten Regional Plant Protection Organizations facilitate more local cooperation and recommend the regulation of over 1,000 named quarantine plant pests. Member States of the European Union work together and regulate imported plant material on the grounds of plant health with each Member State taking into account the plant health concerns of every other Member State. However, decision making can be slow and border inspections poorly targeted. Close relationships between regulatory scientists and policy makers, focussed on agricultural and horticultural production, are changing to take a broader stakeholder community into consideration as decisions regarding the environment seek to draw upon a wider knowledge base. Challenges that impede the success of limiting international pest movement include increased international trade and climate change. International guidelines designed to prevent pest spread present challenges of their own if they remain difficult to implement.


Pest risk analysis Phytosanitation Plant biosecurity Quarantine Regulatory science 


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Copyright information

© British Crown Copyright 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan MacLeod
    • 1
  • Marco Pautasso
    • 2
  • Mike J. Jeger
    • 2
  • Roy Haines-Young
    • 3
  1. 1.The Food and Environment Research AgencyYorkUK
  2. 2.Division of BiologyImperial College LondonAscotUK
  3. 3.Centre for Environmental Management, School of GeographyUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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