Biosecurity Flagship Science Director Dr Gary Fitt
(Photo: CSIRO)
November 25, 2014

The CSIRO is warning that Australia should not become complacent in the face of potential biosecurity threats, which could range from a human disease pandemic to the invasion of a devastating wheat disease.

CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship Science Director Dr Gary Fitt said it was much better to pre-empt and avoid biosecurity issues than have to deal with the consequences.

“Dominating the news right now is the Ebola virus crisis, which is an obvious global health concern,” Dr Fitt said.

“Meanwhile farmers near Katherine, in the Northern Territory, are dealing with an outbreak of a new disease – Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus – and while not fatal to people like Ebola, this virus is devastating their crops which has severe financial impacts.”

The CSIRO says a  new report, “Australia’s Biosecurity Future” , is a systematic examination and assessment of where Australia is heading and what we need to do protect our environment, industries, people and way of life over the next 20-30 years.

It identifies 12 biosecurity “megashocks” which it says could become a reality if Australia becomes complacent about biosecurity.

They could devastate Australia’s agricultural industries, economy and environment, and severely alter our way of life.

CSIRO partnered with Animal Health Australia, the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre, and the Invasive Animals CRC and consulted with various industry, government and scientific organisations to deliver the report.

The megashocks used to illustrate the challenges that Australia may face include:

  • Nationwide incursion of a new race of an exotic wheat stem rust – one more virulent than existing races of UG99
  • Nationwide loss of pollination services from feral European honey bees due to a multi-state varroa mite incursion
  • Nationwide incursion of a new exotic fruit fly
  • Nationwide outbreak of a variant strain of foot and mouth disease
  • Bluetongue outbreak across Australia’s major sheep producing regions
  • Highly virulent rust spreads across multiple ecosystems
  • Successful establishment of black-striped mussel
  • Outbreak of infectious salmon anaemia
  • Nationwide zoonotic disease epidemic

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