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U.S. Plant Pest Regulations Modernised

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has issued a final rule adopting effective 9 August a new streamlined permitting process for the movement of certain plant pests, which are organisms of any sort that have the potential to cause harm to U.S. agriculture or the environment. APHIS notes that the new rule will align plant pest regulations with current agency policies, remove obsolete requirements, streamline the permitting process for low-risk organisms and update requirements for the importation of foreign soil, thereby making permit requirements clearer and more transparent while accelerating and simplifying the permitting process for certain low-risk pests and pathogens.

Under the Plant Protection Act of 2000, certain types of live insects, microorganisms and weeds that are plant pests and/or that may be potential biological control organisms are granted permits by APHIS in order to allow for their import and interstate movement, as these potential pests may still serve beneficial purposes. Academic, industry and government researchers use certain plant pests for many purposes, including taxonomic studies of microorganisms, diagnostics, product development, isolation of novel compounds from microbes for use in pharmaceuticals or as compounds for plant protection or plant growth enhancement, biological control, chemical analysis, and laboratory and field research. Commercial businesses seeking permits include zoological gardens, biologically-based pest control companies, butterfly release enterprises, live pet food (invertebrates) retailers, and specialty item stores that sell products for human consumption.

Among other things, APHIS will continue to require permits for the importation of biological control organisms and plant pests in order to preserve the appropriate 33 safeguards with respect to foreign sources. The agency intends to make petitions for importing pests without a permit available for public comment. Moreover, any organisms and pests that APHIS lists as being able to be moved interstate without a permit will not be eligible to be imported without a permit unless the agency expressly indicates otherwise.

APHIS also said that it continues to work with industry to improve the efficiency and timeliness for clearance of imported commercial biological control organisms, including by designating certain ports where clearance is a priority and delays are minimal. While the agency recognises that these specific designated ports may not be convenient for all importers and situations, it will continue to seek additional solutions while maintaining the safeguards needed for importation of live organisms.

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