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EFSA outlines assessment approach for biocontrol of alien plants

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has outlined the procedures to follow for a risk assessment on the release of a biological control agent to control an invasive plant species. The statement follows a recent EFSA opinion on the risk posed to plant health by releasing a bud-galling wasp to control Acacia plants in Portugal. For similar requests for opinions in the future, the EFSA requires: host specificity tests of an agreed plant list; a risk assessment for plant health for the EU or an appropriate bio-climatic area; and a consideration of benefits. This process could be facilitated by an expert working group to advise applicants, it says. However, the EFSA believes that its role is best suited to providing a peer review of assessments prepared by others who have more experience of using biocontrol agents from other countries. Biological control to manage invasive alien plants is still not widely adopted in Europe, despite its successful use in other continents and its advantages in sustainability and safety compared to chemical and manual control, the EFSA notes.

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