Biosecurity and Fumigation

It’s time for a new approach

Common fumigants have serious negative effects for the agricultural industry globally including increased pest resistance, high toxicity to humans, ozone depletion, climate change, and pest infestations that result in billions of dollars in lost revenue annually.

Pest infestations cause more than A$19.4 billion in lost revenue globally each year. Effective fumigation is vital to maintain biosecurity.

A 2017 independent review of Australia’s biosecurity system highlighted it as a trade and economic asset:

Australia’s biosecurity system underpins $59 billion in agricultural production, $45 billion of agricultural exports and our $38 billion inbound tourism industry.

Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity Review, July 2017

However, the key options currently available are highly toxic – methyl bromide and phosphine – which have been shown to deplete the ozone layer and are aiding in insect resistance to fumigation.

Adding to the issue is the fact pests are becoming increasing resistant to current fumigants because of excessive reliance and improper application.

Australia’s biosecurity system plays a critical role in protecting the quality of life of all Australians and our place on the world stage: our first-class produce is safe and available to domestic and international consumers; we have access to premium agricultural trade markets; our native fauna and flora (and their diversity) are unique and of immeasurable value; we are free from many of the major animal, plant and environmental pests and diseases found in other parts of the world; and our natural, social and urban amenities ensure we remain a highly desirable and rewarding destination for tourists and other visitors. These economic, environmental and social benefits, and Australia’s reputational advantages—worth many billions of dollars—rely on a strong and focused national biosecurity system.

Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity Review, July 2017

When you consider even Australia’s relatively limited biosecurity outbreaks to date, it is imperative another solution is found that can be implemented on a large scale, world-wide.

In an assessment of 124 countries threatened by a biosecurity invasion, Australia was classified as ‘high risk’ and ranked 15th for the potential cost of an invasion (US$7.8 billion) based upon the likelihood of arrival and establishment of a new pest. With the USA and China identified as the biggest threats to global biosecurity due to their existing pests, Australia’s high levels of trade with these nations and comparatively pest free status significantly increases the risk.

CSIRO, 2017