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MPs Highlight Shortage Of Plant Health Experts

13 March 2014

Urgent action must be taken to address a shortage of skilled plant health specialists, an influential group of MPs has warned.

Lavender Hidcote 1 - Copy (180px * 156px)In a report published following an inquiry triggered by the outbreak of ash dieback disease, the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee claimed there are currently ‘too few plant health academics and courses to train them in UK universities and colleges’.

The committee’s tenth annual report on Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity also raised concerns about a ‘lack of definition of the roles and responsibilities of plant health authorities in the UK’, while it also called for ring-fenced funding to support research into tackling future plant pests and diseases.

In addition, members of the committee also backed the findings of the independent Tree Health and Plant Biodiversity Expert Taskforce and urged the Government to fully implement every recommendation.

Launching the report, Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Anne McIntosh MP commented: “The UK needs its own solid core of dedicated, well-trained experts in this area and the Government must act with urgency to address the skills gap that we currently face.

“The Government’s efforts so far to combat plant disease are to be welcomed, but we must strengthen our own capability to predict, monitor, control and mitigate the impact of pests and diseases on plants here in the UK.

“Co-ordination and communication between the multiple plant health organisations, both within the UK and across the EU, is key. We must take advantage of lessons learned on the continent and take early action at home to combat the risks posed by diseases and pests.”

Earlier this week, Professor Nicola Spence was named as DEFRA’s Chief Plant Health Officer by Environment Minister Lord de Mauley.

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