This decision, declared the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, "is part of the growing threat posed to our agricultural production by increasing trade with third countries, potential risks and the need for control of themselves, "as well as" climate change itself, with the emergence of new pests and harmful pathologies that add to existing ones. "
The creation of this body is part of the institutional decentralization policy of the Government of Spain.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, as the body responsible for designating the reference laboratories at the national level, has decided to create a National Plant Health Laboratory within its own administrative structure, with the aim of becoming the Spanish Reference Laboratory in Plant Health and whose functions, according to the Law 43/2002, on Plant Health, will be:
- Harmonize the methods and techniques to be used by the plant health laboratories of the autonomous communities.
- Participate in national pest prospecting programs.
- Issue mandatory report prior to the declaration of the existence of a quarantine pest that first appeared in the national territory.
- To carry out the activities related to the fulfillment of the programs of application of good laboratory practices that are within its competence.
- Participate in the coordinated programs and carry out the analyzes or tests that, for arbitration purposes, or for other purposes, are requested.
Functions of the National Laboratory
Also, in the field of Regulation 2017/625, of the European Parliament and of the Council, regarding controls and other official activities carried out to guarantee the application of food and feed legislation, and of the rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and phytosanitary products, the National Reference Laboratory will perform the following functions:
- It will collaborate with the reference laboratories of the European Union and will participate in training courses and in cross-laboratory tests that organize these laboratories.
- Coordinate the activities of the official laboratories designated in accordance with the purpose of harmonizing and improving the methods of laboratory analysis, testing or diagnosis and their use.
- Where appropriate, it will organize tests between comparative laboratories or proficiency tests between official laboratories, ensure appropriate monitoring of said tests and inform the competent authorities of the results of such controls and monitoring.
- It shall ensure that the information provided by the reference laboratory of the European Union is disseminated to the competent authorities and official laboratories.
- It will provide, within the scope of its mission, scientific and technical assistance to the competent authorities for the implementation of the multiannual national control plans and the coordinated control programs that are adopted.
- When relevant, it will validate the reagents and reagent batches, establish and maintain updated lists of available reference substances and reagents and manufacturers and suppliers of such substances and reagents.
- May provide training courses for the personnel of the designated official laboratories.
- It will assist the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the diagnosis of plant pest outbreaks, and in the case of non-conforming items, by conducting confirmation diagnoses and characterization and taxonomic studies with isolated pathogenic strains or pest samples.
In addition, the National Laboratory will provide diagnostic service to samples of products and plant material from third countries sent by the Border Control Points (PCF).
The assistance of the National Laboratory to phytosanitary controls at the border is essential to identify in a precise and agile way over time the suspicions raised by the presence of organisms whose identification cannot be carried out in the facilities of a PCF.
All this in order to determine whether the shipment is compliant or not, based on the risk that said agency may carry. In the case of exports, many destination countries of Spanish exports require the presentation of laboratory tests that prove the good phytosanitary condition of our shipments. In this sense, the availability of a National Reference Laboratory is also key to the development of sales abroad in Spain.
The National Laboratory will integrate all the necessary areas to provide a comprehensive service in molecular biology, immunoenzymatic techniques, microbiology and entomology so that it can meet massive diagnostic needs for specific situations, such as those required by the current risks of plant health. A synergy in equipment and costs will also be achieved, which is not available now.
The MAP collaborates with 6 centers recognized as a reference for different pests or diseases, dependent on as many universities and research centers, whose functions as reference laboratories will be gradually assumed by the National Laboratory.
Currently the CETAL Foundation It is already the National Reference Laboratory in all official control actions, in the field of Program of Official Control of Primary Agricultural Production as established by Royal Decree 578/2017. This reference will be automatically incorporated into the National Plant Health Laboratory.
The property of the CETAL Foundation will be used for the creation of the National Plant Health Laboratory that, being an organically dependent center of the Ministry, through the General Directorate of Agricultural Production Health, will contribute to the city of Lugo a activity generating stable employment, of higher quality, with greater projection, connected with the university activity of the city.