Australia - Pork industry to fight quarantine move

Date of publication : 5/30/2005
Source : AAP
The Australian pork industry is within its domestic and international rights to fight a quarantine decision that could wipe out millions of local pigs, a key industry leader says. Australian Pork Ltd (APL) chairman Nigel Smith said quarantine rules appeared to be swinging too much in support of free trade and not enough to preserving Australia's high disease-free status. His warning echoed criticism last week by Federal Court Justice Murray Wilcox of a decision by the nation's quarantine chief to allow the import of pork from several nations. In a strongly worded judgment, the judge said the decision to allow the imports would ensure the post weaning multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) - that wipes out millions of piglets across the globe every year - would make its way into Australia. There are concerns with the federal Department of Agriculture, and in government circles, that the decision could undermine Australia's entire trade system. But Dr Smith said at no stage did Justice Wilcox ever say that he wanted a zero risk approach to quarantine. He said the finding went to the heart of how quarantine organisation Biosecurity Australia, which set the rules for the import of pork, went about its operation and ignored the threat posed by PMWS to Australian pig producers. Australia had every right, because it was one of only a few nations to be free of PMWS, to set guidelines that would keep the disease at bay. "Under the World Trade Organisation we're allowed to protect our health and disease status and that's what we've been fighting for," he said. "If this was foot and mouth disease then you know the department and Biosecurity would act very, very differently. "But PMWS is the foot and mouth disease of the pig industry, and our concerns were just ignored." PMWS has killed around eight million piglets alone in Europe in the past four years, and is costing Europeans about eight million Euros a year to fight. Dr Smith said all the pig industry needed was a quarantine system that greatly reduced the threat of the disease making its way into the country. He said science presented to Biosecurity Australia had shown that the chance of a PMWS outbreak within 10 years under its existing regulations was between 96 per cent and 99 per cent. But the agency had instead focused on the short term risk, rather than the long term inevitability. "It's like saying that because you're house hasn't burnt down during the past 10 years, that you won't take out insurance next year," he said. "It's only a matter of time before PMWS gets into Australia under the current quarantine systems." The Department of Agriculture is reviewing current import licences issued under the quarantine systems that were introduced into operation last year.
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