Food & Nutrition Security – The Biosecurity, Health, Trade Nexus

13-14 December 2021, Canberra


Professor Nicola Spence

Honorary Professor, University of Birmingham, Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer and Head of the National Plant Protection Organisation

Professor Nicola Spence is Defra’s Chief Plant Health Officer and is an expert in plant health and international plant trade. Previously Head of Plant Health and Chief Scientist at the Food and Environment Research Agency, Nicola is an experienced research scientist and has worked on virus diseases of horticultural crops in the UK and internationally. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, President of the British Society of Plant Pathology, President of the European Foundation of Plant Pathology, Honorary Professor at University of Birmingham, Visiting Professor in Plant Pathology at Harper Adams University, a member of the Royal Horticultural Society Council and a Trustee of The Yorkshire Arboretum. She has a BSc in Botany from the University of Durham, an MSc in Microbiology from Birkbeck College, University of London and a PhD in Plant Virology from the University of Birmingham.

Unpacking the nexus in a changing world – the relationship between biosecurity, trade, health and environment 


The long-term trend of increasing volume and speed of movement of plants and plant material traded from an increasing variety of sources increases the chances of exotic pests arriving with imported goods and travellers, as well as by natural spread. The GB plant biosecurity strategy ensures activity is directed at priority pests and pathways and is informed by comprehensive risk assessment, which includes pest risk analysis, pathway analysis and trade intelligence plant pathology, population dynamics, and epidemiology, as well as social sciences to understand the values at risk. Responding effectively to new and emerging threats requires resilience, capability and preparedness to respond flexibly to new and emerging threats and everyone with an interest in plants must share responsibility for managing risks.

I will describe the drivers of biosecurity threats and the interactions between them; explain how commodity trading systems are managed to reduce risks, how factors such as farming practices, climate change and pressure on ecosystems and ecosystem services increase the risk from pest and disease outbreaks and examples of how good practices reduce risks.