Australia's Biosecurity Megashocks Could Include Ebola, Threats To Honey Bees And Diseased Wheat Crops

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A human disease pandemic, European honey bee colonies wiped out and an invasion of a devastating wheat disease are just three potential biosecurity threats facing Australia, according to a CSIRO report released today.

These three events alone could devastate Australia’s agricultural industries, economy and environment, and could severely alter our way of life.

But how can we ensure that we see them coming and are we prepared to respond if they occur?

Dr Gary Fitt, CSIRO Biosecurity Flagship Science Director, said it was better to pre-empt and avoid biosecurity issues than have to deal with the consequences.

“Dominating the news right now is the Ebola virus crisis, which is an obvious global health concern,” he said.

“Meanwhile farmers near Katherine, in the Northern Territory, are dealing with an outbreak of a new disease – Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus – and while not fatal to people like Ebola, this virus is devastating their crops which has severe financial impacts.”

The report outlines a systematic examination and assessment of where we’re heading and what we need to do as a nation to protect our environment, industries, people and way of life over the next 20 to 30 years.

“If there was a significant decline in European honey bee populations across Australia in the future, for example, this would impact our economy with losses of around $4 bilion to $6 billion,” Dr Fitt said.

“Losing this free pollination service would severely impact production of several fruit and vegetables including avocados and almonds.”

The report identifies a number of global megatrends which highlight significant change and the growing complexity relating to biosecurity challenges.

“We have identified a number of important trends, such as the need to produce more food for a growing population while dealing with ongoing pressure on the key soil, water and biodiversity resources which sustain production,” Dr Fitt said.

“These trends will produce new challenges for all our plant and animal industries, our environment and human health.”

CSIRO partnered with Animal Health Australia, the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and the Invasive Animals CRC and consulted with various industry, government and scientific organisations to create the report.

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