STC Number - 355

EU import requirements for orchid tissue culture plantlets in flasks

Maintained by: European Union
Raised by: Chinese Taipei
Supported by: Senegal
First date raised: June 2013 G/SPS/R/71, paras.
Dates subsequently raised:
Number of times subsequently raised: 0
Relevant documents: Council Directive 2000/29/EC, Annex 4
Products covered:
Primary subject keyword: Plant Health
Keywords: Control, Inspection and Approval Procedures; Plant health; Risk assessment; Sufficiency of scientific evidence
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In June 2013, Chinese Taipei raised its concerns regarding the EU import requirements for orchid tissue culture plantlets in flasks, contained in 2000/29/EC Annex 4, Points 32.1, 32.3, 34, 36.1, 45.1 and 36. These required the inspection and pest-free conditions for up to six pests. However, the risk of pests for tissue culture plantlets in flasks produced under sterile conditions - like those produced in Chinese Taipei - was much lower than the risk associated with plantlets raised in greenhouses. The EU requirements were, therefore, not scientifically justified. Chinese Taipei had asked the European Union in October 2012 and January 2013 to amend its regulations based on scientific evidence. The European Union responded in February 2013 that the risk assessment of the pest Bemisia tabaci was on-going and that relevant rules would be amended upon completion of that assessment. When the final assessment was published in April 2013, however, it made no mention of tissue culture plantlets and no amendments had been made. In April 2013, Chinese Taipei had reiterated that tissue culture plantlets grown under sterile conditions posed a much lower risk than their counterparts grown in greenhouses, and that, specifically, there was no risk of Bemisia tabaci in those plantlets grown under sterile conditions. Chinese Taipei explained that the European Union had countered that this issue was not technical, but rather legislative in nature, and had asked Chinese Taipei for additional information on official controls and certification processes related to tissue culture plantlets in order to facilitate discussion among EU experts. Tissue culture plantlets from Chinese Taipei were exported worldwide and no other Member required additional inspections for insect pests on plants cultivated under sterile conditions. Furthermore, many EU member States produced tissue culture plants for export under similar conditions and the techniques and procedures for these plants were clearly understood. The EU additional requirements placed a heavy burden, both in terms of money and labour, on Chinese Taipei, and were not consistent with Articles 2.2 and 5.2 of the SPS Agreement, as well as Articles VII.2.(a) and (g) of the IPPC. Chinese Taipei urged the European Union to bring its import requirements in line with existing scientific evidence and risk assessments.
Senegal expressed its surprise at the suggestion of a pest-risk in plantlets produced under sterile conditions, and asked the European Union if pests had been found in such plantlets which could justify its measures.
The European Union explained that this issue had been the subject of intensive bilateral discussions, the most recent of which occurred one week prior to the 57th SPS Committee meeting. The EU policies and procedures had been in place since 2002 and no trade problems had been experienced during that time, excluding the present trade concern. The recently published assessment of the European Food Safety Authority regarding Bemisia tabaci, a known vector of certain plant disease, would be discussed with EU member States in the coming days. The European Union had requested that Chinese Taipei provide a technical dossier outlining the cultivation of orchids in sterile plantlets and additional information regarding official controls and the certification process, and understood that this dossier was forthcoming. Upon its receipt, the European Union would be able to fully consider the issue and work bilaterally with Chinese Taipei to develop a successful conclusion to this trade concern.