Grains Section has say on import risk analysis process

WAFarmers Grains Section made a submission on the Examination of the Import Risk Analysis Process to the Department of Agriculture (Biosecurity Regulation and Reform Policy Branch) on September 12, 2014. Members were provided with an opportunity to comment on the Import Risk Analysis process which seeks to minimise the risk of exotic pests and disease incursions into Australia.

WAFarmers Grains section commented on current procedures for importing seeds for planting into Australian farms which have the potential to introduce invasive, herbicide-resistant weeds. Herbicide-resistant weeds are among agriculture’s most prevalent global issues.

  • In Australia, herbicide resistance is estimated to cost grain growers approximately $200 million each year in lost production and control measures.
  • As growers will need to produce more food in the next century than ever before, new and sustainable weed-management tools have become crucial and biosecurity is an essential component of this.
  • Australia has the second-highest number of herbicide-resistant weed species in the world, with 62 species reported. Only in the US is the situation worse, with 142 resistant weed species.

The WAFarmers Grains Council submitted that current regulations do not adequately address the risks associated with modern broadacre systems which plant large volumes of crop seeds sourced from various, foreign locations.  A summary of key points of the submission are provided below:

  • There is concern about the potential risk of introducing glyphosate-resistant Amaranthus palmeri and other herbicide-resistant weeds through canola importations from the US, and possibly, other crops and their associated herbicide-resistant weeds.
  • Amaranthus palmeri is a weed that has become a major problem in the US because of its ability to resist multiple herbicide groups.  In the US, glyphosate-resistant A. palmeri poses the most serious threat to agriculture since the cotton boll weevil. Therefore it is essential to take careful measures to prevent its introduction onto Australian farms.  
  • Although Amaranthus palmeri is prohibited entry into Australia, there is concern that the lack of requirement to declare its presence will not be sufficient to prevent its establishment in Australia.
  • Genetic variants of A. palmeri (and other weed species) carry glyphosate-resistant genes and currently, there is no known presence of this genotype in Australia.
  • WAFarmers recommends that even a low risk of adventitious presence of these high risk weeds be declarable and regulated by import laws.
  • WAFarmers recommends that herbicide-resistant weeds which are genetic variants and are not already endemic in Australia, be treated as new weed species and be included in the terms of reference of the proposed non-regulated risk assessment into the import of crop seeds for broadacre planting.

 

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