Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Debugging Trade

By Simon Grose

As our neighbours seek to sell us more fresh produce, biosecurity is becoming a busier battleground for science and politics.

Simon Grose is a Director of Science Media (

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Border protection is a difficult policy zone, whether it be concerned with asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, potatoes from New Zealand, pineapples from Malaysia or ginger from Fiji. Over recent months the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs Committee has mounted inquiries into Biosecurity Australia’s (BA) approvals for these imports.

The main risk associated with importing potatoes from New Zealand to make chips is that they could carry a bacterium that causes sections of potatoes to turn black. Dubbed “zebra chip” disease, it first occurred in Mexico in 1994 and an outbreak was discovered in New Zealand in 2008. Other risks are posed by fungi, nematodes, arthropods and viruses.

BA found these could all be managed by a range of measures on both sides of the Tasman. The specific measure to contain zebra chip disease was for all waste from processing to be dealt with according to quarantine protocols.

Four species of mealybugs are the cause of concern associated with pineapples from Malaysia. BA judged that fumigation and a range of regulatory and inspection regimes here and in Malaysia would be sufficient to manage that risk.

Ginger from Fiji could carry yam scale and “a suspected new race or pathotype of burrowing nematode” requiring quarantine measures. Visual inspection and fumigation were recommended to protect against these...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.