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A stronger Pacific bio security system means better outcomes

Wednesday 30 August 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Economy, Environment, National


A stronger Pacific bio security system means better outcomes
Dr Gabrielle Vivian-Smith, Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. MELINA ETCHES/23082505

The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) - the standard-setting body for plants and plant products based in Rome, develops draft standards every year which are sent to all the members of the Pacific Plant Protection Organisation (PPPO) to review and to ensure they are relevant to the Pacific.

Following the the three-day PPPO and IPPC workshop that was held last week, Dr Gabrielle Vivian-Smith, Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said discussions involved the importance of standards in plant health.

The international standards are really important for providing protection from plant diseases and pests, stopping the spread of plant and diseases also enabling trade, said Dr Vivian-Smith.

“A lot of the pathways that pests and diseases come in on might be related to fresh produce, container pests, passengers bringing goods from other countries so international standards help us to create harmonised regulations internationally.

“So, they help facilitate trade but at the same time provide that protection for our environment, food security and healthy plants.”

Life is basically dependant on having healthy plants they’re pretty fundamental to this work, she said.

Standards PPPO have focused on have included wood products such as pellets with bora, and fruit fly hosts.

There are different research from around the world, different ideas therefore the workshop was also trying to create a single set of terminology.

Surveillance was discussed in looking for plant pests and disease, finding these early so they can be prevented and to stop the impact of those pests, and disease early warning systems.

“Global trade and the movement of people also create more connections which is great but that means more connections for pests to find host plants and therefore increases the risk and potential for spread.

“Those sorts of changes do create higher risks, higher probability of pest establishment, pest spread and pest impact.

“Plants, pests and diseases don’t respect boundaries, we can’t keep them out just like that so it’s really important for us to work together as a region because if we have a strong region Bio Security it helps all of us in the region and can overcome pests and diseases and its impacts much better. 

“Stronger Pacific Bio Security system means better outcomes for all of us so working together is really important,” said Dr Vivian-Smith.

PPO are finding that in extreme weather events largely the result of climate change such as cyclone storm events, heavy rainfall and bushfires, do create a more vulnerable eco system and create a lot of disturbance.

These extreme weather events do create a more vulnerable system for pests to establish and they also bring in pests, she said.

The full Armyworm - a moth which is a very strong flyer across air currents has arrived in the Pacific region.

 “It is a very omnivorous pest so it feeds on a lot of different species and is a threat to food security,” said Dr Vivian-Smith.

PPPO have formulated their advice that feeds into the international standard-setting process, and as a Pacific region they will be providing that advice through as part of the annual international standards- setting.

It creates an ability for the Pacific voice to be heard and to present what are important regional matters to ensure that the international standards that are set are relevant for the Pacific and are going to be useful, rather than for other regions in the world, she said.

Michael (Mick) Bartlett, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Biosecurity Authority Fiji, said the working workshop was to draft and review the Sanitary Phytosanitary Measures (SPM) that are used to govern that way of trade - about pests and disease and the control of them.

“It’s work that can be quite tedious because its all about the detail and it can be quite technical,” he said.

Recommendations were put in on what they believe have been omitted and should be in the draft, “better words so its accurate making sure that the glossary of terms that we use universally are recognised.

Over 40 participants from around the Pacific region attended the workshop that was hosted at the Crown Beach Resort, Arorangi.