Consequences of importing roughage
Report no: 2022:02
Import of roughage to Norway may introduce novel plant pests, invasive plants and disease-causing pathogens to both animals and humans. However, there is a high level of uncertainty behind these conclusions.
This is the key message in a risk assessment, published by the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment (VKM), and requested by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority and the Norwegian Environment Agency.
What did VKM assess?
The risk assessment includes plant pests listed in Annex I and II in the Regulation relating to plants and measures against plant pests, animal diseases listed in Annex A, B, and C of the Regulation on warning and notification of diseases in animals, as well as diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans (known as zoonoses).
The assessment also evaluates alien plant species which can be introduced through roughage, along with their potential impact on biodiversity.
VKM performed a qualitative assessment after conducting an extensive literature search.
Plant pests and invasive alien plants
Karnal burnt of wheat, the single pathogen of relevance, is caused by the fungus Tilletia indica. Norway does not import hay or straw from countries in which the fungus is present. Therefore, the probability of this pathogen entering Norway is low.
There is also a low probability of the introduction of plant pests, listed in both Annexes to Regulation relating to plants and measures against plant pests, through the import of roughage. These organisms are unlikely to survive harvesting, drying, bailing and transport. For both conclusions, the uncertainty is low.
As regards to invasive alien plant species, VKM concludes there is a high probability, coupled with a low uncertainty, for plants with hard-coated seeds to be introduced to Norway through import. Such seeds may survive drying, bailing and transport.
“Nonetheless, it remains a challenge to determine which species may be introduced, and whether these are invasive or not,” says Iben Margrete Thomsen, one of the chairpersons of the project group.
Animal diseases and zoonoses
Pathogens that cause disease in animals, zoonoses or antimicrobial resistance may be introduced to Norway through the import of roughage. The probability for this happening varies between moderate and low, according to the assessment by VKM.
“If these pathogens and/or antimicrobial resistance were introduced and established in Norway, it would have large consequences” says Truls Nesbakken, one of the chairpersons of the project group.
Compared to imports from most other countries, importing from Sweden, Finland, and some regions of Iceland would lower the probability for introducing the assessed pathogens and diseases.
There is high uncertainty regarding the conclusions in this assessment, due to the lack of scientific documentation of the occurrence and survival of potential pathogens in roughage. There is also uncertainty related to whether negative consequences due to import would be discovered, because some of the diseases have a long incubation period. Accordingly, it would be difficult to establish a causal association to the import.
This assessment has been evaluated and approved by a group of members from the Panels on Animal Feed, on Plant Health, on Animal Health and Welfare, on Biological Hazards, and on Alien Organisms and Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).