will be established in autumn -23 at the initiative of Bi-O Agro AS to provide input into new plant health regulations, and will recommend a system around the import of plant material with far stricter border control and follow-up. The goal is a system that enables the import of biodiversity to build the sustainable food systems we need, while being safe in terms of plant health and also working fairly for all involved.

Proposal for a clearer system with “amnesty” for “old sins”

The system in the USA, where all imports must physically pass so-called Aphis senters for inspection, will be used as a reference. The proposal implies that such centers must be built in Norway with enough capacity to handle significant amounts of plant material, and NIBIO Planteklinikken will have an important role in that context.

We also see it as crucial that the system can accept material that has already been introduced without a plant health certificate. The access to material via the internet and extensive travel means that a lot of material comes in “under the radar” and is spread internally in the country, whether the person carrying out this is aware of the illegality or not.

In order for such material to be prevented from being spread before it has been checked, two things must be in place:

  1. that submission for testing/cleaning does not entail a risk of punishment and is also not subject to a fee (or only a symbolic fee) so that people actually report and hand in their material
  2. that the population is thoroughly informed so that there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that all material must go to such centers and all sharing before this is prohibited

Garlic as an example

A reason for the creation of the initiative is some concrete cases in connection with garlic, and we will use this as one of several example cases for the initiative.

We are aware that NIBIO Planteklinikken has cleaned a garlic variety that has come to the country from Belarus within the quota of what you can bring in food for your own use, and therefore without a plant health certificate. This variety, which has been named ‘Valdres’, is now on the market on the basis that it has been cleaned and therefore does not pose a risk of the spread of plant diseases.

Bi-O has itself introduced garlic on the same terms from Canada, but has received a reply from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority that we are not allowed to sell this material, even though we had it cleaned at NIBIO Planteklinikken (!) If this answer means correct interpretation of the applicable law and regulations, we face discrimination as long as the sale of ‘Valdres’ is not stopped. This would then be a breach of the fundamental legal principle of equality before the law, and it cannot be accepted.

Another case is cultivars (varieties) in circulation within and around the association KVANN, of which Bi-O has in-depth knowledge. Varieties such as ‘Alexandra’ and ‘Estisk Rød’ and a large number of others have been actively spread here, and it is unlikely that all of these has been imported with a certificate or has been cleaned after import. We have not had contact with KVANN specifically in relation to the initiative. In any case, it will be a case for the Norwegian Food Safety Authority if illegal distribution takes place.

Bi-O’s answer to this situation is and the proposal outlined above. This means that we do not want any kind of public settlement regarding everything that has been introduced and spread so far, but rather a system built on a new clarity and with an “amnesty” approach, so that society can check all material that is in circulation via social media, marketplaces, exchange clubs, etc.

We are of the opinion that the activity of such plant enthusiasts is fundamentally of a positive nature and is motivated by the desire to contribute to the sustainable food production of the future based on great variety. After all we regard ourselves a part of this group. This is precisely why it is so important that we get a system in place that enables such diversity, while at the same time it is safe in terms of plant health and also works out fairly for all involved.

Sist oppdatert 2023-11-07 av Bi-O