One of the consequences of the increase in international trade in recent years is that European countries have been faced with the introduction of several new pests. Recent examples are Bursaphelenchus xylophilus (pine wood nematode) first detected in 1999 and threatening pine forests; Anoplophora glabripennis (Asian longhorn beetle) a polyphagous insect threatening woody plants; more recently Tuta absoluta (tomato borer) which has spread rapidly through countries in the Mediterranean Basin and threatens outdoors tomato production in these areas. In the case of a widespread occurrence within the EPPO region, it has been estimated that the potential economic impact of Bursaphelenchus xylophilus (pine wood nematode) would be around 5 billion EUR per year. It can be noted that the present costs of control measures have already reached more than 40 million EUR in Europe. Regarding Anoplophora glabripennis (Asian longhorned beetle), its potential impact in urban environments has been estimated around 96 million EUR for any big European city. It has also been estimated that the introduction of Tuta absoluta (tomato borer) in many EPPO member countries has cost between 1.7 to 3.4 billion EUR per year. One of EPPO’s main priorities is to give prompt information and alert to National Plant Protection Organizations to prevent the introduction from other parts of the world of such pests which could damage crops or the environment, and to limit their spread within the region should they be introduced. Activities cover all types of plant pests: bacteria, fungi, insects, invasive alien plants, nematodes, phytoplasmas and viruses.
There has always been a need to minimize crop damage from pests and EPPO is consequently playing a role in particular in providing guidance for the evaluation of plant protection products. Over recent decades, crop protection practices have changed as many active substances have disappeared from the market in European countries because of the stricter registration criteria. This is causing considerable problems in agriculture because it is becoming increasingly difficult to control specific pests (including diseases and weeds) in a satisfactory way. One of EPPO’s main priorities is to develop principles of good plant protection practice on major crops in the EPPO region by employing the most efficient application practices and incorporating non-chemical methods into pest control programmes and encouraging Integrated Pest Management.
In a changing environment, EPPO’s missions and strategy should be continuously adjusted in order to better serve the needs of the regulatory bodies both in the area of plant quarantine and plant protection products.
In order to achieve this aim several activities are conducted within EPPO.
Identification of potential risks
The EPPO Secretariat has established early warning systems to identify emerging risks.
Measures adopted by countries to protect their territories from the introduction of new pests should be technically justified. A system has been established to perform Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) at the EPPO level and Expert Working Groups are convened to conduct PRAs on specific pests. Five PRAs are conducted every year including the identification of possible measures to prevent the introduction of these pests. Out of these five PRAs, one is conducted on an Invasive Alien Plant. The PRA scheme and all PRAs prepared in the EPPO framework are available on the EPPO website. EPPO is also exploring whether a screening process can be elaborated to address the risks of new trades in plants for planting. The results of this study will be publicly available in due course.
Pests which have been evaluated through the EPPO system and have been recommended for regulation as quarantine pests for the EPPO region are included in the EPPO A1 and A2 Lists. The lists distinguish pests which are absent from the EPPO region (A1) from those which are present (A2) but with a limited distribution. EPPO maintains appropriate documentation on the pests included on these lists.
When a pest is recommended for regulation, EPPO Standards can also be developed in order to provide guidance on how to detect them during inspection and how to identify them in the laboratory. More than 100 diagnostic protocols have been adopted. In order to ensure the quality of diagnosis performed in the laboratories, standards on quality assurance have been developed. A close collaboration with the European Cooperation for Accreditation (EA) has been established. A database on diagnostic expertise in the EPPO region has also been created.
EPPO provides guidance on eradication and containment and several standards have been developed for important pests such as Bursaphelenchus xylophilus (pine wood nematode), Ralstonia solanacearum (potato brown rot) and Heracleum sosnowskyi (Sosnowsky's hogweed). Standards are in preparation on Agrilus planipennis (emerald ash borer) and Anoplophora glabripennis (Asian longhorn beetle). A decision support scheme for eradication and containment is also under preparation.
As described above, procedures are in place to perform PRA for invasive alien plants posing a threat. If a PRA concludes that a plant poses an unacceptable risk, a decision has to be made on whether to regulate the plant.
Codes of conduct can prove an effective alternative or complementary approach to regulation. A Standard has been developed which provides guidance to establish a ‘Code of conduct on horticulture and invasive alien plants’.
Standards for the efficacy evaluation of plant protection products are developed to harmonize the process of efficacy evaluation within the registration procedure of EPPO member countries. The long-term programme has already produced more than 275 general and specific standards. All these standards are stored in a web-based database.Current activities include the development of guidance to support new regulatory procedures for plant protection product registration. EU countries are now obliged under the new EU Regulation 1107/2009 to apply ‘Zonal authorization’ and ‘Comparative Assessment’ as part of the regulatory process, and EPPO has taken a central role in developing these new conceptual approaches. It is acknowledged that the principles defined for zonal evaluation may be used by other EPPO countries wishing to adopt the zonal concept for the registration of plant protection products. Other examples of new standards under development are: Principles of efficacy evaluation for microbial plant protection products, Principles of zonal data production and evaluation.
Information relevant to the probability of appearance of resistance, and to resistance management, forms part of the biological dossier required for the registration of a plant protection product and EPPO develops guidelines on the provision of such information. Resistance management is also an integral part of good plant protection practice. EPPO continues to facilitate the exchange of resistance management practices by organizing workshops.
EPPO is active in the area of minor uses to support speciality crops: growers are frequently in the situation that there are limited solutions for managing pest related problems in such crops. EPPO is developing extrapolation principles to provide solutions for specific crop-pest problems. Other new EPPO Standards including Comparable climates on a global level and Principles of zonal data production and evaluation provide further guidance for identifying and applying crop trial data from other regions, in order to provide solutions to crop protection problems.
EPPO has developed a general standard on the Principles of Good Plant Protection Practice and 32 specific standards on the major crops of the EPPO region, which give preference to ecologically safe methods and minimize undesirable side effects and use of plant protection products. Work on GPP covers the concept of limiting usage of plant protection products by employing the most efficient application practices to achieve control and by incorporating non-chemical methods into pest control programmes. It provides recommendations on how to use plant protection products safely and effectively, it is consistent with the strategy to achieve sustainable use of pesticides in future years and also encourages integrated pest management including biological control.
One of the important elements in Integrated Pest Management is use of biological control agents. This is also strongly recommended in recent EU legislative texts. In collaboration with the International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC), EPPO maintains a List of biological control agents widely used in the EPPO region. The list is reviewed annually by EPPO/IOBC experts.
An increasing number of organizations are involved in the two areas of activities of EPPO such as the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Council of Europe (CoE). Special attention is brought to communicating with these international organizations and, whenever relevant, collective views are elaborated. In particular, EPPO is playing active role in the International Phytosanitary Measures Standard setting process under IPPC.
Because of their role in plant health as regulatory or evaluation bodies, EPPO has also established regular contacts with:
Regular contacts are also established with sister Regional Plant Protection Organizations in North America, South America, Africa, Asia, Near-East and the Pacific.
EPPO Workshops and Conferences are ideal forums for experts from EPPO countries to exchange experience and knowledge. EPPO organizes approximately five Workshops or Conferences every year. Workshops are mainly directed at implementation of EPPO Standards or International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (e.g. PRA, eradication and containment programmes, diagnostic protocols, workshops for inspectors). EPPO Conferences usually cover pest-specific topics or general aspects of plant protection (e.g. diagnostics, computer-aids). Every second year a Colloquium takes place in conjunction with the EPPO Council Session to address strategic topics which are of interest to NPPOs.
The information generated within EPPO is disseminated though different channels (EPPO Website, EPPO Bulletin, EPPO Reporting Service). Freely available databases are also maintained such as:
The EPPO Secretariat is developing a new database, which will be freely available via Internet. In this new database, the EPPO codes will be used as the core system to ‘attach’ to each pest (or plant) all available EPPO information (e.g. datasheets, illustrations, pest-specific standards).
The Organization is administered by its Executive Committee (7 governments elected on a rotational basis, meeting twice a year), under the control of its Council (representatives of all member governments, meeting once a year) headed by a Chairman and a Vice-Chairman, elected as individuals. The Secretariat is responsible for coordinating the EPPO work programme.
The implementation of the technical aspects of the EPPO strategy is carried out in different bodies within EPPO:
The working procedures of the organization are detailed in the document entitled EPPO Profile of an International Organization