The Role of Biosecurity in Australia's Agricultural Industry

26 November 2020 Katie Michelmore

Agriculture

​Invasive species have caused considerable damage to
Australia for over a century, eradicating native species and altering the
natural development of much of our flora and fauna. Australian biosecurity
plays a very important part in preventing future damage to the country, but how
it goes about this is often far from straightforward.

Biosecurity involves preventive quarantine measures designed
to prevent unwanted pests and diseases from arriving in Australia and requires
careful cooperation from scientists, government, industry, and the community as
a whole to be completely effective.

These procedures detect, stop and eradicate any potential
threat to Australia’s environment, population and industries – in this article
we take a look at a few ways they achieve this.

Plant biosecurity

Plant pests and diseases can cause irreversible damage to
our important plant industries, damaging food sources for Australians and
affecting our consumable and organic exports. Plant pests can also outcompete native
plants and destroy our native forests, grasslands, and scrublands.

For Australia, stringent biosecurity protocols have helped
us avoid some common pests found all over the world, ensuring we can outcompete
many inferior products on the international
export market
.

Animal biosecurity

Protecting against foreign pests and animal diseases (such
as foot and mouth disease, horse flu, bird flu and African swine fever) is a
crucial step in ensuring the wellbeing of Australian livestock.

It’s not just about livestock, however – effective animal
biosecurity continues the support of the Australian environment, our economy,
native wildlife and human wellbeing.

Marine biosecurity

Australia boasts some of the most stunning coastline in the
world, and efficient maritime biosecurity protocols remain an important step in
helping maintain the health of the unique flora and fauna that call it home.

This occurs through the surveillance and management of
invasive marine life that can damage local aquaculture, ports and the reefs and
related environment. Because new Australian ports are in constant development,
marine biosecurity is often an uphill battle made even more difficult by the
growing number of invasive species on the watch list.

Human biosecurity

Biosecurity is an important step in preventing the spreading
of highly damaging diseases found in animals (particularly livestock) that have
the capability of also infecting humans.

These diseases – called zoonotic diseases – can
be extraordinarily damaging if left uncontained, and the recent COVID-19
pandemic is the perfect example of this. Other diseases that have historically
caused heavy damage to human health include diseases such as avian influenza
(bird flu) and SARS.