Fera, as part of a multi-disciplinary consortium of 16 European organisations partnering on the Valitest project, provides scientific expertise for the validation of diagnostic tests to support plant health. Global food security is one of the most important and complex challenges our world is facing in the 21st century. Despite current protection practices, pests are responsible for significant pre-harvest crop losses worldwide - losses which will likely be exacerbated in future, through climate change, growing pest resistance and tighter restrictions on conventional controls. Increasing focus is therefore placed on early diagnosis and rapid response to reduce the risk of entry and spread of plant pests. In order to take action, pests need to be accurately identified to an appropriate level of confidence and within a timeframe which reduces impacts on trade.
In recent years, numerous tests based on new technologies have been developed to meet the different needs. National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPOs), for example, routinely perform pest diagnoses as part of export certifications, import inspections, pest surveillance and eradication programs. However, most of these tests are validated on an intra-laboratory basis through limited test performance studies (TPS) or ring trials and there is a need to further harmonise practices.
As part of Fera’s commitment to protect food production and the natural environment, we are working with a multi-disciplinary, European consortium to:
· Provide more complete and precise descriptions of the performance of diagnostic tests.
· Stimulate, optimize and strengthen the interactions between stakeholders in Plant Health for better diagnostics.
· Lay the foundations for structuring the quality and the commercial offers for plant health diagnostics tools.
The European consortium brings together a unique and exceptionally strong combination of scientific, technological and commercial expertise, resources and geographical representation. Fera will be primarily working on the validation of test using different techniques and an analysis of the demand for diagnostic tests and their validation. Scientists at Fera will interact with a broad range of stakeholders, including researchers, diagnosticians, policy makers, inspectors, advisory services, industries and growers’ associations to ensure the project meets end-user requirements and to assess potential economic impacts.