Knowledge for a sustainable world

Associate Professor Robert Black
Associate Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Regulation

Food and Markets Department

Natural Resources Institute, Faculty of Engineering & Science

+44 (0)20 7740 6531

Part-time lecturer, NRI 2011-2018.
Research and consultancy on SPS in developing countries and emerging economies

Reader in Law, University of Greenwich 2004-06/Senior Lecturer in Department of Law 2002-2004
Reader in Biosecurity Law and Risk Assessment, Department of Law, 2004-2006 (prior to early retirement)
Socio-legal research on adoption of biosecurity (sanitary and phytosanitary) measures in developing countries
Programme Leader, LLM Biosecurity and Trade
PhD supervision

Senior Scientist/Principal Scientist at NRI 1990-2002
Research and Consultancy on plant pathology and plant quarantine
Programme Leader, MSc Natural Resources

Plant Pathologist, Overseas Development Administration, 1980-1989
Postings in Thailand, Belize, UK

Lecturer in Botany, University of West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, 1976-1979
Research on mycorrhizas

Research Assistant, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Leeds, 1975-1976
Research on mycorrhizas

Socio-legal Studies Association (previously)
Tropical Agriculture Association (previously)
British Society for Plant Pathology (editor of New Disease Reports 2007-16, currently Bacteriology Editor)
Statute Law Society
Commonwealth Association of Legislative Counsel
Member of Specialised Pool of Experts for Law Reform (Commonwealth Secretariat)

  • Socio-legal research on adoption of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures in developing countries
  • Legislative analysis of biosecurity/SPS legislation in developing countries
  • Transition from Soviet standards system to SPS-based import controls in Former Soviet Union
  • Pesticides law and regulation
  • Environmental law

Dr Robert Black's research background in plant disease diagnosis and control, assisted by front-line legal and regulatory experience in developing and transitional countries, has led to an in-depth understanding of the way that national legislation should meet the normative guidelines arising out of international trade law and normative standards for safe use of pesticides and other agrochemicals. Primary and secondary legislation that Black has drafted that is now in force includes:

  • Amendments to the Pesticides Control Act 2002 (Belize) and statutory instruments under this Act
  • Plant health component of Belize Agricultural Health Authority Act, Chapter 211
  • Law on Plant Protection Products, No. 29 of 2005 (Macedonia),
  • Law on Agrochemicals, No 27 of 2012 (Rwanda)

Additionally, he has drafted a Bill for a Law on the Protection of Plant Health that is currently before Parliament in Rwanda and a text for a Plant Health Act for the Seychelles has been incorporated into the Bill for Animal and Plant Biosecurity 2011 being considered in the Seychelles.

In 2011-12 he undertook a major study for the Asian Development Bank on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards in Central Asia as a prelude to a major new initiative to reform SPS-related legislation and border controls. See below. In 2013 he completed drafting regulatory guidance for the registration of microbial biological pesticides for Africa on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Currently he is Lead SPS Expert for a new ADB project in progress since 2017.

Study of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures in the CAREC countries of Central Asia.

Under contract for Asian Development Bank (2011-2012). This project study was initiated by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Transport and Trade Facilitation Strategy. Its objective is to identify areas for improvement in the administration and application of SPS regulations, procedures, and standards in the CAREC region.

It recommended a set of concerted, coordinated measures designed to improve and reduce delays in handling perishable goods in transit (and particularly at border crossing points), ensure that food is safe for consumers, and prevent the spread of pests and diseases among animals and plants. The study is based on an examination of SPS measures as applied in the People's Republic of China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan.

The study involved a wide-ranging assessment of current procedures for animal and plant quarantine, veterinary inspection, food safety inspection, and risk analysis and assessment, assessing conformity with internationally accepted standards.

Study of SPS in Russia and Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, 2013-14.

With Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). There will be two papers as outputs, one study on SPS issues in fish exports from Norway to Russia, the other a study of the implications of Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation and the Customs Union on trade with EU and other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Both papers will be co-authored with Irina Kireeva, of Italian Law Firm NCMT (co-author of already published work).

Research on trade facilitation in Africa, 2013-14

Funded by the World Trade Organisation/Standards and Trade Development Facility in partnership with Trade Mark Southern Africa and COMESA. Dr Black is lead researcher on this project, the specific objectives being to:

  • raise awareness about the synergies between the implementation of SPS measures and trade facilitation;
  • identify key needs, opportunities and good practices to improve the implementation of SPS measures in a way that ensures the appropriate level of health protection while minimizing trade transaction costs; and
  • develop recommendations to strengthen future work and technical cooperation focused on SPS and trade facilitation.

This research will examine, firstly, the SPS controls that are applied to selected products by particular exporting and importing countries, and how they are implemented in practice. While the focus will be on official (i.e. recorded) trade, wherever possible and relevant, attention will be given to: (i) unrecorded and informal trade for the selected products; and (ii) informal payments and related waiting times, as well as formal fees. Secondly, the research will consider ongoing initiatives to improve SPS protection and reduce trade transaction costs by simplifying, standardizing and/or harmonizing SPS measures, procedures and processes, and/or enhancing collaboration between SPS authorities and other organizations involved in trade.

Module leader for Policy and Law for Environmental Protection (BSc Environmental Sciences) and Environmental Law and Policy (cross-Faculty MSc programmes). Lecturing in other modules and supervising BSc and MSc dissertations

  • Fellow of Higher Education Academy
  • Senior Editor of online journal New Disease Reports for British Society for Plant Pathology
  • Recognised internationally as leading expert on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures in international trade of food and other agricultural products. Since 2011 have been invited by donors and international agencies (Asian Development Bank, USDA, USAID, World Trade Organisation) to lead studies and consultancy work in this area.
  • Gave expert opinion on biosecurity (foot and mouth disease) theft of virus from security) for news programmes on ITV, CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC World Service.
  • Gave evidence to House of Lords EU Select Committee enquiry on ‘Brexit and plant and animal biosecurity’ in April 2018.
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