Final Report and Policy Document

Biosecurity for plant health: better justification of precautionary measures

Tree Blossom

While it is generally agreed that ‘prevention is better than cure’ in plant health, translating such logic into precautionary actions does not always happen. While better information may not be sufficient to change practices, there is a weakness in our ability to justify precaution. This project sought to address this gap by considering whether there are different approaches or additional information which might be considered. The project engaged experts and practitioners with knowledge of existing sectoral practices in Scotland, UK and internationally, summarised existing literature and undertook a gap analysis, to generate a better understanding of the rationale for taking precautions and to improve the evidence base with which to justify taking actions.

The findings of this project emphasise that the availability of high-quality evidence is not enough to encourage adoption of precautionary measures by individual practitioners. Practitioners agree that the information is high quality, and can be trusted, but they do not have the time or expertise themselves to interpret and apply to their own context. The recommendations include overcoming these barriers for individuals with the aid of trusted information gatekeepers, and for groups by working collectively with case studies illustrating real life examples of navigating the journey towards a precautionary approach. It is those person-to-person interactions which give practitioners the confidence to try new practices, particularly in the case of precautionary measures where positive impacts are accrued over the longer term.

Image by Bianca Ambrose-Oji© (Forest Research)