Home' Grower : October 2012 Contents News
Scientists slam poor
By ASHLEY WALMSLEY
STRONG views about the
proposal to import New
Zealand potatoes are being
expressed in the lab as much, if
not more than, in the paddock
Professor of plant pathology at
the University of Sydney David
Guest says it is "undeniable" that
zebra chip will have an adverse
impact on the Australian industry.
"If it happened in New Zealand,
there's absolutely no reason why
it wouldn't have a similar impact
here," he said.
Prof Guest closely followed the
lifting of a ban on apples from
New Zealand last year.
He said it was the system, not so
much the science, which created
points of contention, especially
with the absence of a "precaution-
"Science-based means there has
to be solid scientific evidence to
prevent imports. If they've got no
evidence, then they've got no rea-
son to stop imports," he said.
"What does zebra chip do to our
native plants? We don't know;
nobody has ever looked at it."
Consequently, DAFF is obliged
to tell the World Trade
Organisation there is no evidence
of a threat, he said.
Prof Guest said while quarantine
measures look good on paper,
there is a factor in the chain which
jeopardises the process: humans.
"In biological terms, nothing is
acceptable. You are talking about
micro-organisms that produce
millions and billions of propagules
so it doesn't matter what number
you set as the threshold, as you
keep importing the agricultural
products into Australia, inevitably
you are going to import the pest
or disease," he said.
"All it takes is one mistake and
bingo -- we've got this disease and
we are in the same situation as the
north island of New Zealand and
He pointed to the spread of
introduced diseases such as myrtle
rust and chestnut blight as recent
examples of quarantine failure.
"It's about trade and how gov-
ernments around the world have
agreed to put free trade above
AUSVEG biosecurity consultant
Kevin Clayton-Greene, Tasmania,
voiced his concern on the global
stage about Australia's vulnerabil-
ity while addressing the World
Potato Congress in Edinburgh in
He made it clear he thought
there was significant concern over
the lack of importance the
Australian Government placed on
potential disease introduction.
In listing the drivers behind
biosecurity policy, Dr Clayton-
Greene listed the word "trade"
three times on a single slide.
"I think what we learn out of
this is that there are a number of
drivers of biosecurity; the first one
is trade, the second one is trade
and the third one is trade. And
that's really what drives our biose-
curity system in Australia," he
"Those who benefit from trade
are not necessarily those for
whom it poses a risk.
"The people who make the rules
and decide things, have got a very,
very poor understanding of indus-
Free trade first priority
All imports carry risk
DAFF defends 'world class'
Dr Kevin Clayton-Greene says
those who benefit from trade are
not necessarily those for whom it
poses a risk.
try. They don't understand the
operating imperatives of industry
and what's more, they show a
great reluctance to listen to
In a statement to Fairfax Media,
DAFF described Australia's biose-
curity as "world class" and that its
decision-making was based on the
best scientific information avail-
able about the risks a commodity
presents to Australia.
"In developing this draft, more
than a hundred scientific studies
were considered when assessing
the risks associated with the
import of potatoes for process-
ing," DAFF said.
"All submissions received will
now be considered and (where
scientifically relevant) will inform
a final report presented to the
Australian Government Director
of Quarantine for final decision."
By COLIN BETTLES
FEARS are escalating that more
Australian horticultural products
are being used as sacrificial
lambs to back the Federal
government's pursuit of broader
free trade agreements.
According to AUSVEG, the
potato, tomato, vegetable, ginger,
pineapple, apple and pear
industries have all lodged
objections with the government,
attacking the lack of scientific
rigour applied to recent
AUSVEG says most of the
objections have cited the selective
nature of the Import Risk Analyses
conducted by Biosecurity Australia
-- an arm of the Federal
The Coalition has backed
industry concerns, proposing a
new Senate inquiry that will
investigate the different risks
associated with allowing New
Zealand potato imports into
Australia, to report by November
21.In addition, Queensland
Nationals Senator Boswell has
called for an inquiry into the
risks and consequences of
allowing fresh ginger imports
from Fiji and says another report
by the Senate's Regional Affairs
and Transport References
Committee, into the
importing fresh pineapple from
Malaysia, is due on October 10.
Shadow Agriculture Minister
John Cobb says industry groups
are concerned the government's
latest IRA on potatoes may be a
"snow job" and proposes to open
the floodgates without
adequately addressing the latest
Independent South Australian
Senator Nick Xenophon said the
government allowed apple
imports from NZ last year --
despite warnings about the risk
He said history was now
repeating itself with
Horticulture 'sacrificial lamb' for WTO
The South Australian Grower -- October 2012
A CERTAIN strain of zebra chip could
spread from potatoes to carrots,
according to an American potato
Professor Neil Gudmestad, North
Dakota State University, spoke at the
8th World Potato Congress in
Edinburgh in May on Potato Psyllids
and Zebra Chip: The US Experience.
He said the zebra chip bacterium
solanacearum) occurred in three
haplotype strains: A, B and C.
While haplotypes A and B were
found in North America and New
Zealand, research of haplotype C in
Scandanavian countries also
discovered it in carrots.
"There is no information currently
about whether haplotype C would
indeed cause zebra chip but in
everything we have done
sequencing the genome of
haplotype C and comparing it to A
and B, there is no reason to believe
that it would not cause zebra chip,"
Prof Gudmestad said.
The American experience has seen
the spread of zebra chip via the
tomato-potato psyllid (Bactericera
Farmers refer to 'zebra chip holes'
within their crops where sections
have died out as the psyllids move
from one plant to the next.
He said it was important to
remember that having the psyllid
present, even without the disease,
reduced yields and lowered quality.
"We don't have a lot of arsenal
when it comes to managing these
particular insects," Prof Gudmestad
Control measures implemented by
US growers include chemical use,
avoidance of highly susceptible
varieties (Atlantic, Ranger Russet,
Russet Norkotah, FL-1291) and later
plantings which in turn have added
to yield losses.
Attempts at controlling the disease
had added about $450-600/hectare
for farmers, according to Prof
"The control, the management of
this disease and obviously the
psyllid, is based on the use of
insecticides and of course, that is
not particularly sustainable," he
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