Improved approach for analysing biosecurity risks

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources today introduced an improved approach for analysing biosecurity risk, the group pest risk analysis (PRA), which will enhance Australia’s understanding of major biosecurity pest groups to better manage the risk they pose.

The department’s Deputy Secretary responsible for biosecurity, Lyn O’Connell, said the group PRA approach supports Australia’s robust biosecurity system and will make the import process more effective and consistent.

“A PRA is the process of determining whether an organism is a pest, whether it should be regulated, and the strength of any biosecurity measures needed to combat it,” Ms O’Connell said.

“The group approach to PRAs provides a ‘big picture’ understanding of the biosecurity risks posed by major pest groups with similar biological characteristics.

“It also provides a building block that can be used to review existing or new trade pathways, avoiding the need to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when analysing the risks posed by individual species.”

The first group PRA will look at biosecurity risks associated with plant-eating insect pests called thrips and plant diseases called tospoviruses, which are spread by thrips on fresh fruit, vegetable, cut-flower and foliage imports. Thrips and tospoviruses, an emerging biosecurity risk, can cause significant damage to fruit, vegetable, legume and ornamental plants.

“Through the first group PRA for thrips and tospoviruses, we confirmed 80 thrips species and identified 27 tospoviruses as quarantine pests for Australia,” Ms O’Connell said.

“The draft report proposes a change to the biosecurity status of three thrips species already present in Australia, which will mitigate the risk of these species introducing exotic tospoviruses. This allows us to protect Australia, and is not expected to have a significant impact on trade.”

The group PRA used a significant body of scientific evidence gathered over 18 years, which involved robust scientific pest risk analysis and extensive consultation with State and Territory agriculture authorities, key industry organisations and trading partners.

“It is also validated with 26 years of border interception records and the examination of thousands of research papers, and includes significant pests recognised here, and internationally,” Ms O’Connell said.

A separate review is now underway for nursery stock imports, which may be another pathway for the introduction of tospoviruses. The department will consult with stakeholders if any changes are required for existing nursery stock import conditions.

Development of the group PRA approach was supported by the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, which provided funding to further strengthen Australia’s biosecurity system.

The Draft group pest risk analysis for thrips and tospoviruses on fresh fruit, vegetable, cut-flower and foliage imports is open for comment until 14 March 2017. This is an extended 90 calendar day consultation due to the Christmas break.

The draft report is available at www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/risk-analysis/plant/draft-group-pra-thrips-tospoviruses.  Ω

Posted 14 December 2016


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