2013. december 13., péntek, day of Luca, Otília napja
Selected passages from the history of the hungarian plant protection administration on the 50th anniversary of establishing the county plant protection stations
1954 is a milestone in the history of the Hungarian plant protection. A Governmental Decision provided for building 17 county plant protection stations in 1954 and the remaining 2 county stations in 1955. First, the objective was to control Colorado beetle and fall webworm. Then, the control of weevils and the pollination of alfalfa and red clover areas used for seed collection were managed. This official control was made with full state financing. Chemical weed control is made in 1955 on a relatively small area.
In 1956, the government specifies the tasks of plant protection in Act 9. It is the first intention/trial for separating the responsibility of the state and the producer. The same act provides for the quarantine measures. After the revolution, major personal changes took place in several counties. That year the grain storages and mills are enrolled in the counties with the aim of their phytosanitary inspection. The phytosanitary certificates are drafted in three languages (Hungarian, Russian and German) and the inspectors had new stamps. From 1959, the Plant Protection Service of the Ministry of Agriculture was headed by Bálint Nagy who became the leader and was the enthusiastic expert of its development for long decades first in the field of plant protection then in the whole use of agrochemicals. In 1959 to 1960, the large-scale agricultural cooperative farms were organised. This change resulted in advantageous farming structure for the centrally supervised and controlled plant protection activity.
From the 1960s, the control of Colorado beetle and fall webworm has greatly decreased, this task was partly taken over by the large-scale farms. Official controls were restricted to public areas, trees and parks of municipalities. The official work was re-organised at district level. The objective was to help the work in the newly formed cooperative farms, as well as to organise the control brigades in the stations and to supervise the plant protection of the district. In the mid-60s, the agricultural government has greatly improved the biological laboratories of the county stations aiming at the start of authorisation procedures and development of pest management programmes as well as the organisation of forecasting system. The Hafflinger vehicles have been developed in 1969 and were mounted with booms and nozzles for spraying.
These developments were possible because of the new plant protection codex issued in 1964, which clearly designated the actual tasks. In compliance with the international regulations, stricter than ever quarantine measures were taken both at the points of entry and in the internal detection surveys. In order to be able to meet the higher quality requirements, the quarantine inspectors and other specialists were regularly trained for their new responsibilities. These trainings lasted, in special cases, for several weeks. In order to supervise and to fulfil the new tasks related to the application of agrochemicals in the farming, on the one hand, and in the development of the pesticide industry, on the other, special laboratories have been set up at the county stations (laboratory for using rodenticides, laboratory for toxicology and occupational measures, laboratory for hydrobiology). A nation-wide forecasting scheme was worked out on the basis of quite new philosophy.
From the late 1960s, the laboratories for pesticide residue analysis have been created for the determination of pesticide residues in plant products, with the objectives of controlling the ever wider use of pesticides and of protecting the health of the consumers. The technical specialists of the organisation designed and developed new types of machines. Soon, the serial manufacturing started in the industry of agricultural machinery. In the second half of the 60s, a programme for withdrawing the chlorinated hydrocarbons was launched and Hungary was the first in the world to ban, in 1968, the use of DDT for plant protection purposes. During the 1970s, the plant protection organisation was the engine of technology transfer which became the pledge for the distribution and wide use of industrial crop production system.
In 1976, the units dealing with soil science and agrochemistry of the National Institute for Agricultural Quality Control were united with the plant protection organisation, thus the use of agrochemicals was managed by one official body. A national network of soil and plant test laboratories was built at the facilities of the county Stations. In practice it resulted in the regular (every 5 year) analysis of soil nutrient supply in the agriculturally cultivated land; on this basis, our specialists gave advises on the eventual use of plant nutrients.
This was the most dynamic period in the development of the county plant protection and (later) agrochemistry stations. As a result of improvements related to pest management programmes, the plant protection and the agrochemistry organisation achieved everlasting merits in the modernisation of Hungarian agriculture, in addition to making the official controls. The FAO recommended that the developing countries should study the Hungarian plant protection organisation as a model.
In 1988, central state measures were taken aiming at the modernisation of state administration, and, therefore, the official and so-called servicing activity of the plant protection and soil conservation stations were separated in two independent units. We have to admit, at the same time, that this measure coincided with the important slowing down of the development of agriculture and, consequently, the new servicing unit found itself in a rather disadvantageous market situation and, on the other hand, the state provided much less financial resources for the official measures than necessary.
The collapse of the farming structure after the change of the regime rendered the situation even more difficult, because the solvency of the production sector became worse. The upcoming of small production units and farms resulted in great demand for increased official tasks but under very bad conditions. Under this intolerable situation, the plant protection organisation was newly united in 1992. The not strictly official, so-called servicing activities have been reduced and taken away from the county plant protection and soil conservation stations. In a changing agriculture - with modified ownership, farm structure, profit producing ability, market shares, etc. -, the new plant protection and soil conservation institution has lost its innovative capacity. Instead of supervising the work based on a new approach, the management was busy with preventing the politically inspired, ill-considered and unreasoned re-organisations and with handling the troubles of financing.
The work has focused on the activity related to Hungary's accession to the EU. The first step was the legal harmonisation and the establishment of the institutional background adjusted to the new responsibilities. The EU contributed to this field with significant financial support in the frame of PHARE programme and the national budget made hundred millions of forints available for the improvement of the technical conditions. However, the plant protection and soil conservation institution has got, even nowadays, great financial problems since the end of the 1990s.
As part of the legal harmonisation, the Parliament passed, in 2000, the new Plant Protection Act. This was followed by 7 ministerial decrees governing the various fields of plant protection (e.g. phytosanitary measures, authorisation of plant protection products, maximum residue limits). In line with the continuous amendments of the EU legislation, these ministerial decrees have also been amended several times. We got used to the fact that if the community provisions are regularly amended, we are to modify our national legislation more frequently.
In spite of the above problems, the conditions have been greatly changed since the early 1990s. For instance, we have started rehabilitation of the buildings which are 20 to 30 years old. In more than the half of the county Services, the reconstruction is over, the central building of the Miskolc Service is being renewed at present. All the cars have been changed. The old east-european cars were changed and the plant protection inspectors and the diagnosticians got new, modern Opel cars. Unfortunately, these cars are now 6 to 8 years old so they have to be changed, too. Though, actually several 30-year old Hafflinger sprayers are in use, the county Services have new machinery for the trials, with automatic sprayers and the precision application of the formulations is computerised.
The information technology was established with PHARE financing. In the plant protection and soil conservation county services, at the border inspection posts and in the facilities of the national special laboratories, the specialists communicate in a close IT system and can contact the competent institutions and data-bases of the EU. All inspectors have laptops to make their official work, including the issuance of phytosanitary certificates.
The laboratory networks have been continuously changed. In addition to the already mentioned special laboratories - having nation-wide competence -, all the other laboratories (e.g. laboratories for pesticide residue analysis, pesticide quality control, soil test and virology) work in a regional system, that is each laboratory is responsible for several counties within a region. We have started to set up a several-step pest diagnostic laboratory system with the contribution of the EU resources. Within some days, we shall make the technical delivery of the central laboratory for pest diagnostics and go on with the construction of sub-centres. Most of the chemical laboratories (for pesticide residue analysis, pesticide quality control, soil test) have GLP certification and - for the last two years - we have started the accrediting the laboratories for pest diagnostics. This is a prerequisite that the analytical results obtained in these laboratories be accepted and recognised in the EU and - generally - in the international markets. But, all this required significant technical development. All soil test laboratories have been equipped with new modern ICP equipment. The instrumentation of the laboratories for pesticide residue analysis has also been improved and up-dated with the help of the FAO and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Also with the contribution of the EU, four new virological and quarantine greenhouses were built in the various regions of the country in which the technical conditions and quarantine facilities are available for carrying out the high level and safe controls.
By the date of our accession to the EU, basically national budget was available for the construction of road and railway BIPs at the border line of the EU towards the neighbouring countries, as well as at the Budapest-Ferihegy airport, in compliance with the EU regulations. Though with no new investment, for the moment, the inspections of regulated consignments coming from third countries can be properly made in the Mohács port.
With regard to the development, I want to emphasise that the Parliament made a Decision in 2000 for creating - for the first time in Europe - the chamber of university graduated plant protection experts, which is the Hungarian Chamber for the Professionals and Doctors of Plant Protection. Our intention is that this civil board gives more and more help to the plant protection services in fulfilling the state tasks. Having overcome the first difficulties, the Chamber participates in the organisation of trainings, in providing data services for the national eradication campaign of epidemics and in the supervision of the distribution of plant protection products.
In the frame of the institutional improvement, the Central Service for Plant Protection and Soil Conservation was re-organised for coordinating the activity of the Plant Protection and Soil Conservation county Services. Here a new Directorate for the authorisation of plant protection products was created which has already taken over the related official tasks of first instance from the Ministry.
With respect to the new trends, we have set up the Systematic Parasitoid Laboratory in Kőszeg. In addition to dealing with taxonomy, the objective is to contribute to pest management programmes for the whole plant protection organisation and to identify the abundance and composition of species of parasitoids which take part in regulating the pest populations. They greatly support the improvement of environmentally-friendly techniques.
During the same period, we closed down the Laboratory for Toxicology, because the concentration of the Hungarian pesticide industry has greatly reduced the number of this type of studies, and, furthermore, similar testing facilities were available in the country. Two years ago, the legislation concerning the collection of empty packaging materials used for the plant protection products was drafted in cooperation with the manufacturers and distributors and the company of public utility was set up for organising the collection. After long preparation and collection of objects and relics, in 1997 we inaugurated the plant protection museum in Csopak. I used copies of historic documents held at the museum for my lecture. This historic overview of the 50th anniversary of the plant protection county stations gives us good opportunity to speak about the tasks we have before us, with other words, about our philosophy and approach to the future, though this topic is not closely related to this jubilee.
Today, it is a tendency within the European plant protection to cooperate with the food safety institution. Therefore, in most member states of the EU, a new system of relations have emerged. In some countries it has already come to an end. Thus, we are in the same position, we have to shape a correct cooperation with the new food safety authority. Considering the approach "from the farm to the fork", regular monitoring is made throughout the whole process of farming and trade. The reliable methods for producing safe foodstuffs shall not only protect the health of the consumers, but they also improve the conditions of healthier environment. Consequently, the requirements for food safety and environmental protection shall be met in close unity in plant protection and, generally, in the use of agrochemicals (nutrition, soil conservation). They are, obviously, separated, but the philosophy of the general management of traditional plant health issues are conceived in the same line in the EU. In this field, too, we have completely transposed the Community check scheme. Here, we have great responsibility, because we are the external border of the EU. But we have to evaluate the plant health risks in a different way on the huge internal common market, because the goods move freely without internal frontier.
You will not take it as a lack of modesty if I declare that Hungary, as a new member state of the EU is ready to meet the EU expectations for plant protection and soil conservation based on the traditions I have just told you, on the more than 3000 highly educated and trained experts working in agriculture and on the administrative institutions of several decades.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, our dear guests,
I wish you happiness and both professional and personal successes, together with the representatives of plant protection and soil conservation administration who are here, for facing these challenges.
I want to express my thanks to our colleagues who worked in the plant protection stations and its legal successors during the past 50 years.
I thank you, dear foreign friends, that you have honoured our jubilee with your presence.