Home' Grower : July 2012 Contents The South Australian Grower -- July 2012
Enormous potential for irradiation technology
QUEENSLAND and Mediterranean
fruitfly are insect pests of major
concern to South Australia.
Biosecurity SA spends in excess of
$5 million on the fruitfly eradication
program and the relevant industries,
such as citrus, vegetables, cherries,
stonefruit -- and the apple and pear
sector spends a significant amount of
its research and development money
on ways to manage and control these
In the past year, we have seen
Australian Pesticides and Veterinary
Medicines Authority complete its
review of dimethoate.
As a result, its use to control fruitfly
has been either completely been
withdrawn or modified for all fruit and
One of the front line tools to control
the pest has been lost to industry. My
understanding is that fenthion, another
major chemical for the control of
fruitfly, will go the same way within the
next three to six months.
Industry and the government
authorities are frantically looking for
new chemicals to replace these
But the reality is that there are no
new chemicals around to do the same
job and there are not likely to be any
developed in the foreseeable future.
What is being done to assist growers
in managing these and other pests and
diseases? From what I can see, not a
lot!There is one treatment that has
enormous potential, not only for
managing pests and diseases in the
domestic market, but also for meeting
international phytosanitary protocols,
and that is irradiation.
As part of a recent AUSVEG
roadshow, Peter Roberts, from
Radiation Advisory Services, New
Zealand, gave a very good overview of
irradiation and the use of this
technique in Australia and overseas.
He made the following points:
• Irradiation is deliberately exposing
food to radiation energy.
• Examples of radiation are UV and
visible light, radio waves,
microwaves, X-rays and gamma
rays. They differ only in their energy
level and, therefore, in the effects
• Irradiation with the approved
radiation sources cannot make food
• A non-chemical, physical process
(heating, cooling, drying, canning
and pasteurisation are other physical
Most importantly, a protocol exists for
the use of irradiation as a
phytosanitary treatment for fresh fruits
and vegetables within Australia that
has been approved by Food Standards
Australia New Zealand. FSANZ
Standard 1.5.3 governs the use of
irradiation for foods for human
consumption in Australia and New
FSANZ approves applications on a
case-by-case basis after reviewing the
extensive research undertaken by the
industry and the applicant. The
applications must demonstrate a
technical need and treatment efficacy.
FSANZ has approved irradiation for
the treatment of breadfruit, carambola,
custard apple, longan, lychee, mango,
mangosteen, papaya and rambutan.
Persimmons treatment has also been
approved, but not yet gazetted.
In addition, the research has been
completed on tomatoes and capsicums
and the application submitted to
FSANZ for consideration.
The relevant industries are also
funding the data acquisition stage for
the following fruits or vegetables:
strawberry, zucchini, nectarine, rock
melon, honeydew melon, tablegrapes,
cherry, peach, plum and apple.
Peter Roberts presented some other
useful international statistics:
• 23 countries have approved
irradiation for all fruit and
• 12 countries have approved
irradiation for specified fruits and
Australia/NZ (through FSANZ 1.5.3) is
in this group).
• 28 countries have approved
irradiation as a disinfestation
• Seven other approvals are for delay
of ripening, control of maturation
rate or inhibition of sprouting.
• About 60 countries have approved at
least one use of food irradiation.
While SA does not have an endemic
population of fruitfly, this may not be
the case in the future, particularly if the
government reduces its inputs into an
effective biosecurity program.
Irradiation as a replacement
treatment for fruit and vegetables
being imported into SA from interstate
growers is going to be an increasingly
important part of the SA biosecurity
program. It is in our interests to ensure
that the relevant irradiation protocols
Where I see a more exciting
opportunity is in the treatment of SA
produce for export markets.
While SA does not have an
established fruitfly population the only
region that is considered free of the
pest by our international trading
partners is the Riverland Fruit Fly
Exclusion Zone. As I understand it,
some of our trading partners are even
considering not accepting the Riverland
as a pest-free area.
Given pest-free areas are covered by
international sanitary and phytosanitary
agreements, it begs the question about
how any country being part of the
World Trade Organisation can reject
recognition of pest-free areas.
More importantly, I see irradiation
being a very strong tool for SA
horticulture to be used to re-open
A $10m investment for an industry
that has a farmgate value of $600m
and a 'finished' food value of $1100m
would seem a sound investment to me.
The evidence is overwhelmingly that
irradiated food is toxicologically safe,
and presents no special nutritional or
microbiological problems. The trade in
irradiated fresh produce has grown
steadily and is set to expand further.
SA horticulture can be a leader in this
technology and expand the export
opportunities, but the establishment of
an irradiation plant in SA needs to start
Trevor Ranford, South Australian Horticultural
Services, is an Independent Horticultural Consultant.
Details: 0417 809 172 or
Would you support an irradiation plant in SA?
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