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Ireland Joins European Effort to Boost Plant Health; Urges Tourists Not to Bring Back non-EU Plants from Travels

Ireland has joined a European-wide effort to underscore the importance of plant health; part of which focuses on educating people to not bring back any plants, flowers, seeds, fruits or vegetables from outside the EU when returning from their travels, lest they introduce plant pests or diseases detrimental to native flora.

The #PlantHealth4Life campaign is led by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Commission (EC), and is active in 22 European member states.

Senator Pippa Hackett, Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity with special responsibility for Horticulture at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said: “We are proud to stand alongside our European partners to raise awareness of the profound interdependence between plant health and our collective well-being. This collaborative effort is a unique opportunity to engage citizens from all walks of life — be it the intrepid traveller, the conscientious gardener, or the vigilant parent — in safeguarding plant health.”

Louise Byrne, Chief Plant Health Officer for Ireland, added that the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine conducts comprehensive inspections on imports of regulated plants and plant products. Importantly however, a critical element is educating the public across all spectrums, from commercial importers to amateur gardeners on the need for heightened awareness of the issues at stake and to not attempt to import unchecked plants and plant products that pose a risk to Ireland.

The campaign urges travellers not to bring back any plants, flowers, seeds, fruits, or vegetables from outside the EU, as these items may harbour plant pests or diseases detrimental to native flora. Additionally, consumers are advised to buy plants and seeds online only if accompanied by a valid phytosanitary or plant health certificate. Embracing good plant hygiene practices and promptly addressing signs of plant pests or diseases in home gardens and communal outdoor spaces will also prevent their spread to neighbouring plants and natural habitats.

Speaking on Ireland’s involvement in the campaign, leading Irish garden designer Diarmuid Gavin, who was appointed as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations’ Goodwill Ambassador for Ireland in May 2022, said: “Safeguarding Irish plant health is paramount. As gardeners, we hold the power to effect change — by allowing our gardens to flourish naturally, propagating your own plants from seeds, sourcing plants responsibly, and vigilantly monitoring for abnormalities, we can collectively protect our botanical heritage.”

Geoff Percival
Geoff Percival
Geoff has worked in business, news, consumer and travel journalism for more than 25 years; having worked for and contributed to the likes of The Irish Examiner, Business & Finance, Business Plus, The Sunday Times, The Irish News, Senior Times, and The Sunday Tribune.

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