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Harmonization of national phytosanitary regulations in China

Wang Chunlin, Zhang Zongyi and Huang Youling

(1) National Agri-Technical Extension and Service Centre, Agriculture Ministry of China, No. 20 Mai Zi Dian Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100026, China; e-mail: [email protected]; (2) Chongqing University, Chongqing 400044, China; (3) China Township Enterprises Corporation, Beijing 100026, China


This paper explains the threat that invasive alien species pose to agriculture, forestry and ecosystems in China. It demonstrates how the existing legislation and regulations in China were analysed in relation to the International Plant Protection Convention framework. In addition, the paper describes how China is preparing to upgrade its relevant plant quarantine regulations in order to harmonize them with international agreements and standards, and details the advances made so far. Particular attention is given to phytosanitary regulation dealing with pest investigation, surveillance, information reporting, pest risk analysis and pest free areas.


Because of the rapid development of international trade, the possibility of invasive alien species spreading in the world increases greatly with consequent enhanced risks. Many animals, plant and micro-organisms have invaded China creating serious trouble, both current and future. The Chinese government has done some work to prevent and contain invasive alien species under the requirements of the International Plant Protection Convention.

Impacts of invasive alien species in China

According to one estimate, invasive alien species that have entered China number at least 107 species of alien weeds, 32 kinds of pests and 23 kinds of alien pathogens (State Environmental Protection Administration of China, 2001). Some of these species are described brie.y below to illustrate the adverse impacts for China.

Harm to agriculture and forestry

Invasive alien species have caused notable economic losses in agricultural and forestry production in China. Examples include:

Impacts on biodiversity

Invasive alien species have had serious consequences for biodiversity in China. Some notable examples are:

Fig. 1: Crofton weed (Eupatorium adenophorum) has become widely distributed in southeast China and is spreading north at a rate of 35 km a year.

Agriculture Ministry of China

· common cordgrass (Spartina anglica)

Common cordgrass was intentionally introduced in 1960 and 1980 to protect tidal banks. However, the weed forms dense stands that invade estuaries and replace more diverse plant communities (figure 2). Many mangroves along the coasts have died through competition with common cordgrass.

Fig. 2: Cordgrass (Spartina anglica) has formed dense stands in estuaries and caused the death of mangroves.

Agriculture Ministry of China

· water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)

This well-documented invasive alien species was introduced into China as a feedstuff in the 1920s and 1930s. Now widely distributed in lakes, rivers and ponds, water hyacinth forms large floating mats of plants in which it is the preponderant species. Water hyacinth removal (figure 3) costs China about one billion yuan every year. The variety of water life has decreased from 84 species of freshwater aquatic plants in the 1960s to 20 species today.

Fig. 3: Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) forms large floating mats of plants; its removal is costly.

Agriculture Ministry of China

Reasons for alien species invading China

Several main reasons explain why invasive alien species are a major problem in China:

The existing phytosanitary system

The existing structure of phytosanitary management in China is shown in the box.

The NPPO framework



General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of China (AQSIQC)

Entry-exit inspection and quarantine bureau in every province

State Forestry Administration of China

Forestry protection and quarantine station in every province, city and county

Agriculture Ministry of China (2 577 management frameworks, 10 000 quarantine inspectors)

3 isolation quarantine facilities

1 pest risk analysis centre

25 laboratories and surveillance stations

Plant protection and quarantine station in every province, city and county

“The law of the People’s Republic of China on the entry and exit animal and plant quarantine” was implemented in April 1992. It provides specific stipulations for entry and exit quarantine work, including phytosanitary inspections and treatments and other phytosanitary requirements.

“The regulation of plant quarantine” was implemented in May 1992 after being revised. It prescribes the purpose, the domestic organization, plant quarantine scope and the measures for pest risk management.

Other relevant regulations include:

Developing harmonization of national regulations with international agreements

In 1999, the Ministry of Agriculture and the State Administration for Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine issued the rule for importing seed and seedlings according to the international rules. In May 2001, the China State Council promulgated regulations on management of genetically modified organisms.

Currently, the country is carrying out new legislative investigation in order to update “The regulation of plant quarantine” to meet the requirements of the IPPC framework and relevant international standards. The proposed new legislation will attempt to align all the definitions with the international standards. Items such as pest free area and pest risk analysis will be included. China is putting a lot of effort into conforming well with the market economy and international law.

A nation-wide, general investigation of agricultural plant pests was conducted from 2000 to 2003. Its aim is to gain information of epidemic situations and to establish a pest information system. A new pest early-warning system was established in 2004 based on this work and is being tested. Increasing the access to such information and enhancing the transparency of information is necessary to accord with the SPS Agreement.

Harmonization of national phytosanitary standards with the IPPC

China’s programme to harmonize its national phytosanitary standards with the provisions of the IPPC include:

China has already drawn up some draft national standards, including: guidelines for determination of tolerance level; quarantine requirements for Mediterranean fruit fly; quarantine requirement for the introduction of genetically modified organisms; inspection, detection, identification and treatment of fruit fly. It is revising some standards and establishing others so that the domestic rules of plant quarantine will conform with the international laws. Standards on quarantine rules relating to quarantine isolation facilities, potato seeds, and the import of seedlings of flowers, grapes, and grazing and lawn grass have already been revised. Standards currently under revision relate to citrus fruit, Chinese traditional medicine and plant quarantine laboratories. Standards now being prepared include the quarantine and inspection methods for some new quarantine pests.

To promote application of the legislation or regulation under the IPPC framework, the government has issued all the international standards for phytosanitary measures (ISPM 1 to ISPM 21) to the phytosanitary institutions throughout China. The institutions are encouraged to put these standards into practice in their work and most of the principles of the standards are being followed. The content of the ISPMs has been added to quarantine staff training curricula. In addition, some workshops have been held to discuss how to implement the ISPMs.

China has also participated in drawing up two regional phytosanitary standards through the Asia and Pacific Plant Protection Commission (APPPC): Guidelines for the development of heat disinfestation treatments of fruit fly host commodities and Training requirements for plant quarantine inspectors.

Setting up a reporting system for invasive alien species has been undertaken by the State Environmental Protection Administration of China and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The first list of invasive alien species of China was announced on 10 January 2003. A second batch will be reported later.

China has recognized the importance of pest risk analysis in plant quarantine. However, the PRA work of the Agriculture Ministry of China is still at an early stage. There are no national standards for pest risk analysis and the work just follows the relevant standards of the IPPC. To date, China has completed more than 30 PRA reports on foreign plants entering China. Considerable efforts are required to make some rules on the subject.

In accordance with ISPM 4: Requirements for the establishment of pest free areas and ISPM 10: Requirements for the establishment of pest free places of production and pest free production sites, China is establishing an apple pest free area, a citrus pest free area and other pest free production sites to meet the needs of international trade. The relevant regulations and standards are being established.

Achievements and future direction

China has a specific department responsible for the management of standards. A certain amount of money is used for the researching and drafting of standards for quarantine in planned steps. So far, 13 national rules on agricultural plant quarantine have been issued: these include provisions relating to seeds or seedlings of wheat, rice, cotton, soybean, potato, sweet potato and apple, and the transport of agricultural plants. A series of pest free seed and seedling propagation bases have been established to follow the above standards.

In recent years, China has adopted many international standards in its routine work. In general, however, there are still not enough national standards for plant quarantine, and greater efforts are required to work out more standards for quarantine requirements.

Invasive alien species and international cooperation

It is impossible for one country to deal with the problem of invasive alien species by itself. The problem is global. It is necessary to cooperate with other countries or areas and to use the measures of the country of origin of an alien species as a reference point. Plans on research into invasive alien species and on application of measures against them should be organized through international organizations such as FAO, CBD, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and IUCN.

As a developing country, China urgently needs the techniques, methods of management, information and economic assistance to prevent the further spread and negative impacts of invasive alien species.


State Environmental Protection Administration of China. 2001. China’s second national report on implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (available at

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