- Sustaining the diagnostic capacity in the EPPO region -
In connection with the EPPO Council meeting in Prague, a Colloquium was organized to follow up a previous Council Colloquium held in Madeira (2004). In Madeira, serious concerns had been expressed about the decrease of knowledge in the field of diagnostics and the EPPO Council declared a state of emergency (Plant Health Endangered).
As a consequence, the Secretariat undertook an inventory of the diagnostic expertise, capacity and collections which are present in the EPPO region. A questionnaire has been launched on the EPPO website and a database is being set up from the results. The preliminary results of this questionnaire were displayed during the Colloquium.
An important element in the programme of the Council Colloquium was the presentation by individual Member countries of their diagnostic organizations. 16 countries presented a poster illustrating their national diagnostic systems, their specific fields of expertise and interest in collaboration. This led to very good discussions between Member countries. Presentations about EU initiatives in the framework of the Madeira declaration, as well as experiences with accreditation and international collaboration between laboratories were also given.
Recommendations made by the Colloquium
Database on diagnostic capacities and collections
The Colloquium recommended that access to the database on diagnostic capacities and collections should be restricted to NPPOs of EPPO member countries in the initial phase. It also noted that expertise was linked to individuals rather than to laboratories and recommended that names of experts and contact details should be made available in the database.
EU initiatives in the framework of the Madeira declaration
The Council Colloquium took note of the EU initiatives in the framework of the Madeira declaration and in particular of the following points:
- a phytosanitary ERA-Net (EUPHRESCO) has been established to coordinate European phytosanitary research (www.euphresco.org);
- plant health has been successfully included within the scope of the FP 7 research programme which will lead to EU-funded research projects in 2007;
Although significant progress has been made in the area of diagnostic cooperation, EPPO encourages countries concerned to participate as fully as possible in these initiatives.
Accreditation Quality assurance
The colloquium noted that some EPPO Member countries have obtained accreditation following ISO 17025 on "General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories" or are preparing accreditation. It was underlined that accreditation was not an obligation for laboratories.
The colloquium recognized that validation of diagnostic methods was very important, in particular in the framework of quality assurance and accreditation, and that EPPO should develop general standards on proficiency testing and on how to conduct ring-tests. The Colloquium emphasized the need for funds in budgets to be made available to laboratories for conducting ring-tests.
Collaboration between laboratories
The Colloquium noted the importance for laboratories of exchanging information regularly. Participants stressed that EPPO Panels already provided a good basis for information exchange and personal relationships which are both essential for initiating collaborations. It recommended that time should be allocated during EPPO Panels involved in diagnostics for an in-depth discussion on general diagnostic issues.
Nico van Opstal, Director-General of EPPO
Presentation of the EPPO Database on diagnostic expertise
Francoise Petter, Assistant Director of EPPO
Initiatives in the European Union in the framework of the Madeira Declaration
Alan Inman, Scientific Advisor and Research programme Manager, DEFRA (UK)
Consequences of introducing quality assurance systems in diagnostic laboratories
Charlotte Thrane, Microbiologist, Danish Plant Directorate, Lyngby (DK)
Perspectives for international collaboration between diagnostic laboratories
David Caffier, Director of the French National Laboratory for Plant Health, Angers (FR)