Invasive species: the health of European animals is affected by new viruses, bacteria and parasites

(29.05.2011) Viruses, bacteria and parasites affecting animal health should also be taken into account when tackling invasive species in the European Union. 

Declan O’Brien, Managing Director of the European Federation for Animal Health-Europe spoke at a European Parliament hearing on “the challenge of invasive species and destructive insects”.

The event was organised by the European Parliament Intergroup on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development, and by its committee Chair MEP Gaston Di Franco (France).

Invasive species pose a major and fast growing threat to the native biodiversity in Europe. Plants and animals can find their way into new, unfamiliar habitats, can take over native flora or fauna and damage the environment. They have a social and economic impact on human health, food production, fisheries and agriculture: it is estimated that invasive species cost at least 12 billion Euros a year to the EU in measures of damage control.

The EU has therefore recently put forward a European strategy to combat invasive species. The hearing gathered authorities and a broad panel of stakeholders involved in plant health, animal health and environmental matters. It offered a timely source of information on the threat caused by invasive species to plant health, mammals and animal health. 

“Viruses are the biggest threat when it comes to animal health, followed by bacteria and parasites. The European Animal Health industry has spearheaded ground-breaking approaches to pool research and innovation across the European Union and ensure we are ready to prevent or, when needed, cure those new diseases”, said Declan O’Brien.

The ETPGAH (European Technology Platform for Global Animal health) and DISCONTOOLS (DISease CONtrol TOOLS) allow the industry, researchers and funders to agree on the most important animal diseases, identify research gaps and direct research towards filling those gaps. More information can be found on and

The European Commission is addressing invasive species on various fronts. Pia Bucella directs the unit for nature, biodiversity and land use at Directorate-General Environment (ENVI). Directorate-General Health and Consumers (SANCO) is developing a new common plant health regime and foresees a new plant health law by 2012.

“The reasons for developing a new plant health law is to contribute to sustainable production through plant health protection, ensure competitiveness of the agriculture complex, protecting public and private green, forests and the landscape and also to ensure food security”, explained Harry Arijs, Deputy Head of Sector Harmful organisms at SANCO.

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