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Section 6
Policies for pest risk management

Information digest of section 6

Section 6 illustrates how countries take the steps necessary to move from an understanding of potential pest risks into a policy for dealing with those risks. Chapter 20 describes Canada’s approach to translating pest risk assessments into applied phytosanitary measures. Chapters 21 and 22 review contingency planning for plant pest incursions in Australia and the Netherlands, respectively.

Plant pest risk management in Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Plant Health Division is responsible for completion of stage three of pest risk analysis, namely pest risk management. Pest risk assessments in Canada are conducted by the Plant Health Risk Assessment Unit (see chapter 16), which liaises with the Plant Health Division and contributes to consideration of pest risk management options. It is the Plant Health Division that is responsible for translating pest risk assessment data into policies implementing phytosanitary measures. The legislation giving the division its authority to regulate invasive alien species that are quarantine pests of plants is published on the CFIA’s Web site.

At an early stage in development of phytosanitary measures and related policies, Canada’s obligations under the International Plant Protection Convention and the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures must be considered. Prominent among these obligations are:

International cooperation, particularly pest reporting, should not be forgotten.

In addition to specific obligations, key international principles and concepts should be considered in the formulation of any phytosanitary measures and plant protection policies. These include sovereignty, necessity, minimal impact, modification, transparency, harmonization, equivalence, risk analysis and regionalization. Most of these are described in the first international standard for phytosanitary measures, ISPM 1: Principles of plant quarantine as related to international trade.

Consideration of costs and benefits of measures also drives development of acceptable policies, the premise being that if the cost of a proposed policy outweighs the benefits, then the approach is inappropriate. However, the benefits need not be of a purely financial nature.

For invasive alien species, there are four broad approaches to plant protection strategies:

Within these broad approaches integration of specific measures usually occurs. ISPM 14: The use of integrated measures in a systems approach for pest risk management deals with this concept.

It is important to develop emergency response plans for known quarantine pests that present high risks. Conducting emergency response simulations for certain pests allowed the CFIA to develop emergency response plans further, to identify strengths and weaknesses of current systems and to maximize the efficiency of actions in true pest situations.

There are several key international standards relating to invasive alien species. In the development of pest risk management policies, ISPM 9: Guidelines for pest eradication programmes is of particular relevance.

A crucial element in developing policies is dialogue with the affected industry sector or other stakeholder group. This is important for assessing the practicalities of proposed options and in ensuring that the policies are understood and accepted. If the underlying rationale for specific measures and the importance of the target pest is well understood by the stakeholder groups, cooperation is much more likely to ensue.

Once developed, policies should also be flexible enough to deal with the uncertainties and changeability of biological systems.

Contingency planning in Australia

Contingency planning for plant pest incursions in Australia includes many different activities, both scientific (e.g. pest diagnostics and biology) and administrative (e.g. authorization and funding) within a spectrum of pre-border, border and post-border quarantine systems:

Contingency planning can be targeted for certain key pests that are clearly a threat and for which an entry pathway can be identified.

One of the most important characteristics of Australia’s management of pest incursions is that frequently it begins offshore. Pre-border regional collaboration is an important means of understanding what the pest threats are and then mitigating those threats. Building plant protection capacity in neighbouring countries, electronic communication networks and collaborative research projects all contribute to Australia’s assessment of immediate pest risks and careful targeting of post-border surveillance for particular organisms.

Surveillance is an essential element in preventing the establishment or spread of exotic pests, through early detection and managing the response to detections, and supporting trade where it depends on pest free status. Surveillance may be general, where information on pests is gathered from many sources, or it may take the form of specific surveys to obtain information for specific sites over a defined period of time. Specific surveys include the national trapping programmes for Asian gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) and fruit fly pests (Bactrocera spp.).

Northern Australia is strategically important for all Australia in terms of quarantine because of its proximity to Southeast Asian and Pacific countries in which major pests, weeds and diseases are present. The Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy combines border activities, scientific surveys and monitoring, and public awareness activities. It conducts regular surveys in regions extending around the north of the entire continent, from Broome in Western Australia to Cairns in northeast Queensland. Surveys are generally confined to a coastal strip 20 km wide.

Aspects of contingency planning for pest incursions include determination of roles and responsibilities and where legislative authority resides, and financial issues of funding and compensation. Although the major responsibilities in management of pest risk are those of government departments and agencies (federal, states and territories), many other stakeholders are involved. Growers and primary industries, sometimes in partnerships with public-sector organizations, may be called upon. Others may be from environmental or human health groups.

Among recent initiatives to increase the preparedness for pest incursions and improve response planning in Australia, the forest sector has developed a generic incursion management plan (available at The plan identifies the following stages:

The decision-making process consists of five interconnected elements:

Such a generic plan provides a framework that can be adapted and made more detailed for specific cases where there is deemed to be a high risk of introduction or spread of a serious pest or where an incursion has already occurred. For example, specific pest response plans have been developed for papaya fruit fly, pine pitch canker, fire blight and Dutch elm disease.

Contingency planning in the Netherlands

Contingency planning is a tool used in the Netherlands to deal in a timely and efficient manner with the threats of quarantine pests and diseases. It focuses on what to do when unforeseen or unwanted events take place, such as the threat of a pest introduction, outbreak of a harmful organism or infection of a new host plant. Contingency planning should already have been considered before pest risks are imminent. It raises the readiness of authorities for taking swift action as well as public awareness.

Although the course of events in a crisis is often unpredictable, four different phases can be distinguished in contingency planning: first, the situation is normal; second, there are some signals that a crisis might occur; third, there is a (potential) crisis; fourth, justification of the activities and evaluation take place. In the first and second phase risk analysis, scenario development and preparations for the implementation (contingency planning) play an important role.

The Plant Protection Service in the Netherlands does its contingency planning within this context and following the principles on crisis management of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. The planning supports the management of unforeseen or unwanted effects of invasive alien species. The basis is pest risk analysis.

The contingency plan includes information on the organization of the activities, the responsible persons and the necessary resources.

Three groups can be identified with responsibilities:

In contingency plans for organisms with a large impact, all aspects such as personnel, diagnostic facilities, legal power to enforce, material, equipment, instructions are worked out in detail. This allows for a swift mobilization of resources and enactment of emergency actions if the unwanted event takes place.

Other than the direct impact of the organism on the environment, important considerations in contingency planning are:

The contingency plan is based on pest risk analysis. The result is a plan to prevent introduction, to eradicate, to contain or to do nothing. Prevention should be the main objective of contingency planning.

In the Netherlands import inspections and monitoring after import give a reasonable guarantee for prevention of outbreaks of plant pests. Assessment of the invasiveness of the plants and preventing the introduction of invasive alien plants are not yet part of the contingency planning.

The conclusion drawn from risk analyses and research into various new pest threats is that if a pest organism is found in the public and private green spaces in the Netherlands, suppression or containment is often the best result that can be obtained. For example, studies of Phytophthora ramorum, the cause of sudden oak death, suggested that it is impossible to eradicate the fungus from such areas and the aim must be to reduce the risk for the indigenous flora. For suppression or containment a consistent policy is required.

Points to note

Section 6 deals with the frameworks and programmes for pest risk management policies in Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. It also illustrates these general elements by describing the policies developed for specific examples of pest organisms of concern. Some common themes emerge:

This digest consists of information extracted from section 6, together with some background material and explanatory comment. For the full detail, argument, examples and supporting references, please refer to the following chapters 20 - 22.

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