Being aware of the potentially devastating impacts of plant diseases on food security, governments have designed and employ plant health legislation to prevent or inhibit the worst impacts. The development of such policies in Britain, and latterly in Europe, can be closely linked to disease events that have occurred in the potato sector. We analyse early and current examples of policies governing potato diseases in Britain to identify the decision processes leading to the implementation of such phytosanitary policies and how they have evolved over time and in response to different disease threats. Reasons for developing and implementing phytosanitary policies include the desire to prevent pathogens being introduced (entering and establishing in a new area), the protection of export markets, and the lack of effective control measures. Circumstances in which regulatory policies would not be appropriate could include situations where a disease is already widely distributed, unacceptable costs, lack of exclusion measures, or difficulties of disease diagnosis. We conclude that in general, government policies have worked well in protecting British potato growing over the last one hundred years, despite of the failures of some of the policies discussed here. They have also contributed much to the development of plant health policies for other crops. Voluntary grower initiatives are a new mechanism complementing existing formal policies with an additional level of security that allows individual growers to take on additional responsibility rather than relying entirely on government legislation
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