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Lord Lucas: Brown rot has been detected over a number of years at low levels in some consignments of potatoes imported from outside the Community. All consignments from these sources where there is considered to be a risk of infection are inspected at the point of entry and samples are taken for laboratory analysis if suspicious symptoms are observed. The infected lots are destroyed. All of the positive findings have been in potatoes for consumption, rather than those for planting. In the case of potatoes from the Netherlands, when monitoring is being carried out in accordance with Commission Decision 95/506/EC, the action to be taken in the event of a positive finding would depend on various factors including whether or not the potatoes were for planting, but in all cases the infected lot of potatoes would be destroyed. Any findings of brown rot would be notified to the European Commission, who would consider urgently whether any further action at Community level was required.
Lord Lucas: There are four establishments at present in the UK (Central Science Laboratory, Natural Resources Institute, Scottish Agricultural Science Agency, Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland) which are recognised as being capable of conducting all the tests for brown rot. Complete information on other member states is not available but there is at least one state establishment in each member state capable of conducting these tests.
Lord Lucas: There are 211 official plant health inspectors in the UK. All of these inspectors are capable of recognising the symptoms of brown rot in potatoes and the number of inspectors is sufficient to carry out
Lord Lucas: Government facilities and resources are currently being concentrated on operating an effective official monitoring programme for Dutch potatoes, rather than providing a routine testing service for growers. However, any grower who suspects a problem is advised to contact the Agriculture Department immediately. An inspector will advise whether a sample needs to be tested and any such testing will be provided free of charge.
Lord Lucas: Given the extent of the outbreak in the Netherlands it may not be possible to identify clearly the source of the infection but, as with other plant diseases, the European Commission will be taking urgent action to try to establish this information and will report further to the Plant Health Standing Committee.
Lord Lucas: Commission Decision No 95/506/EC provides detailed safeguards, which it is the responsibility of the Plant Health Service in the Netherlands to enforce, against the risk of spreading brown rot infection from the Netherlands. The decision also provides for official monitoring of consignments of potatoes which other member states import from the Netherlands. These measures, together with the requirements of the Potatoes Originating in the Netherlands Order 1995, are being enforced by the UK Agriculture Departments under powers provided by the Plant Health (Great Britain) Order 1993 and equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland. The monitoring arrangements, which apply to all categories of potatoes (for planting, consumption or processing), involve visual inspection supported by laboratory testing.
Lord Lucas: Potato brown rot was diagnosed in one potato crop in England in 1992. This remains the only known outbreak in the United Kingdom and despite intensive monitoring (including testing potato plants which emerged in subsequent years) the disease has not been found again on this site. In the Netherlands, 57 farms have been confirmed as infected. The disease has also been found this year in Portugal, Italy, France, Belgium and Austria but information is not available on the precise numbers of farms affected.
Lord Lucas: Government-sponsored research has established that the bacterium Pseudomonas solanacearum, the cause of potato brown rot, can persist in the roots of Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet or Woody Nightshade). It has also been established that the bacterium can pass to crops which are irrigated from watercourses in which infected S. dulcamara roots are growing, and farmers in the areas concerned have been warned of this potential risk. Other solanaceous plants are also known to be potential hosts to the bacterium but no cases of such infection have been found in the UK. There is not considered to be any specific minimum distance over which the bacterium can travel but further research is planned to elucidate the mechanisms of its potential spread.
Lord Lucas: No single test is 100 per cent. effective where a sampling method is involved. For testing potato consignments a sampling procedure has to be used because it is clearly not practical to test every tuber. Statistically the probability of any load passing or failing the test depends upon the number of samples taken and the percentage of infected potato tubers in the load. The tests which are being carried out in the United Kingdom on Dutch potatoes are additional to those which Commission Decision 95/506/EC requires the Netherlands authorities to carry out prior to export. Where these potatoes are for planting in the UK, the combination of the tests gives at least a 98 per cent. probability of detecting a 1 per cent. level of infection.
(c) state whether the regulations controlling disposal have been strengthened since June 1995.
Lord Lucas: Details of individual potato processing plants are commercially confidential but all of these plants (including potato washing facilities) operate under a code of practice which specifies approved methods of disposal for solid waste and provides for liquid waste to be disposed of into watercourses which may be used for irrigation of agricultural land only if it meets the water authorities' standards.
The Potatoes Originating in the Netherlands Order 1995 requires importers to notify the intended use of the potatoes and the Agriculture Departments are using this information to direct their monitoring and sampling of waste from processing plants. The waste disposal arrangements at these plants are being monitored carefully in view of the potential risk of brown rot being spread into watercourses but in no case has the bacterium been found to be present in the effluents resulting from these operations.
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