Great Britain: New Regulations Aim to Prevent Plant Bacteria Xyella from Entering Country

(Mar. 9, 2021) Amidst a backdrop of outbreaks in continental Europe of Xyella fastidiosa (Xyella), a bacterium that causes plant diseases, Great Britain has introduced the Official Controls and Phytosanitary Conditions (Amendment) Regulations 2021 to strengthen biosecurity controls. Xyella causes diseases in commercially grown crops like citrus, olive, and grapevine, and in a number of broadleaf trees, shrubs, and herbs that grow in Britain. Xyella is currently not present in Britain, and the regulations aim to prevent it from entering the country by prohibiting the import of certain plants and strictly controlling the import of other plants and vegetation from countries where Xyella is known to occur.

The regulations prohibit the import of two plants at high risk from hosting Xyella—Polygala and Coffea—from countries where Xyella occurs. To be imported, these plants must be accompanied by an official statement that they have been grown in a country free from Xyella and that they have been inspected annually.

Other plant imports may be permitted provided that the plants are accompanied by an official statement that they are from country free from Xyella or from an area “established by the national plant protection organization . . . as an area that is free from Xyella.” The regulations also provide stricter controls for the import of olive, almond, lavender, rosemary, and oleander (Nerium oleander) from countries where Xyella is known to occur.

The regulations entered into force on March 4, 2021. The government has stated that if Xyella is found in Britain, all plants within a 100-meter (about a 109.5-yard) radius of the infected plants will be ordered destroyed and a ban imposed on moving any plants located within 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) of the infected plants for a five-year period.

With regard to countries where Xyella is not known to occur, the British government will continue requiring that high-risk plants be inspected, sampled, and tested by official sources before such plants can be imported into Great Britain.

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