A protected zone (PZ) is defined in the EU Plant Health Directive as a zone in which a harmful organism which is established in parts of the EU, is not endemic or established despite favourable conditions.
A harmful organism is considered as established in an area if it is known to occur there and if no official measures are being taken towards eradication, or such measures have proved ineffective over a period of two successive years. To maintain PZs it is important to take prompt eradication action against all findings and to demonstrate that the action is successful. There is an annual review process whereby survey reports for current PZs are considered by the EU Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, to ensure that such designations remain justified. Member states must carry out regular and systematic official surveys to support PZs and must immediately report any findings to the Commission.
The implications of a PZ
Implementing PZ status for a particular organism has associated costs as well as the benefits of maintaining freedom from the organism. Ongoing surveillance and inspections are necessary to establish that the territory remains free of the organism concerned. For businesses involved in commercial trade this will often mean annual inspections by UK Plant Health Authority inspectors to be authorised to issue plant passports, with recovery of costs. The UK Government also carries out surveillance of non-authorised premises, and wider environment areas where appropriate, which is a cost to the taxpayer and resources need to be made available for this specific purpose.
In cases of outbreaks there is an obligation to eradicate these, if the PZ is to be retained. This involves costs for the landowner/occupier in terms of loss of the plants/products and disposal costs. There are costs to UK Governments in terms of inspection, advice, sampling and testing. Depending on the nature of the organism and the hosts it affects, eradication can be a costly and lengthy process, which may not always be successful.
The practical requirements associated with maintaining pest freedom also need to be considered. Where pests move naturally, or on pathways where detection is not straightforward (e.g. in latent form, or in soil), it makes it difficult to identify requirements which give a reasonable degree of assurance of ensuring pest freedom. This could result in requirements which are very costly to implement, or which involve compromise, meaning that the PZ will be more difficult to sustain with a higher likelihood of having to deal with outbreaks.
Protected zone status means that there will be restrictions on suppliers in countries where the relevant organism is present. This has implications for importers and customers in the UK.
The benefits of a PZ
In terms of the benefits of maintaining freedom from the organism concerned include trade benefits of avoiding yield loss and lower pesticide use and often wider environmental and social benefits of keeping the UK environment free from harmful plant pests. In plant health terms, the UK is in a privileged position of having the opportunity to protect against certain threats which could spread by natural means on continental Europe. Therefore, there is the opportunity to consider PZ status for some pests, where it would not be realistic to do so elsewhere in the EU.
Where there is the opportunity to exclude a pest this is generally a better approach than trying to deal with outbreaks as they arise. It is also the case that, should outbreaks in a PZ prove too difficult or costly to manage, a PZ can be revoked and a new policy adopted.
Harmful organisms for which the UK is currently recognised as a PZ
Listed below are the harmful organisms for which the UK currently has a PZ. Guidance on the plant passport requirements for these PZs is available from the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
New EU legislation will come into force on the 01 January 2018 that makes permanent a number of temporary PZs that have been in place for at least two years, or in the case of the Tobacco whitefly Bemisia tabaci, amend the requirements of an existing PZ. Specific guidance regarding the implications of these changes for plant passports is also available from the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
Beet necrotic yellow vein virus Rhizomania – Northern Ireland only
Tomato leafminer Liriomyza bryoniae – Northern Ireland only
Fireblight Erwinia amylovora – Northern Ireland, Channel Islands & the Isle of Man
Tobacco whitefly Bemisia tabaci - 01 January 2018
Colorado beetle Leptinotarsa decemlineata
A bacterial leaf spot of Prunus Xanthomonas arboricola pv. pruni - 01 January 2018
South American palm borer Paysandisia archon - 01 January 2018
Red palm weevil Rhynchophorus ferrugineus - 01 January 2018
Eight-toothed spruce bark beetle Ips typographus
Smaller eight-toothed bark beetle Ips amitinus
Northern spruce bark beetle Ips duplicatus
Large larch bark beetle Ips cembrae – Northern Ireland & the Isle of Man
Six-toothed pine bark beetle Ips sexdentatus – Northern Ireland & the Isle of Man
Great European spruce bark beetle Dendroctonus micans – Jersey, Northern Ireland & the Isle of Man
Web spinning larch sawfly Cephalcia lariciphila – Jersey, Northern Ireland & the Isle of Man
European spruce sawfly Gilpinia hercyniae – Jersey, Northern Ireland & the Isle of Man
Brunchorstia disease Gremmeniella abietina – Northern Ireland only
Hypoxylon canker Hypoxylon mammatum – Northern Ireland only
Sweet chestnut blight Cryphonectria parasitica
Oriental chestnut gall wasp Dryocosmus kuriphilus
Oak Processionary Moth Thaumetopoea processionea excluding defined local authority areas of London
Pine processionary moth Thaumetopoea pityocampa - 01 January 2018
Canker stain of Plane/ Plane wilt Ceratocystis platani
Elm yellows Candidatus Phytoplasma ulmi - 01 January 2018