The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (the department) is improving the effectiveness and consistency of pest risk analysis (PRA). A key step in this process is the development of a group PRA approach which analyses the biosecurity risk posed by groups of pests with similar biological characteristics across numerous import pathways.
Group PRAs apply the significant body of scientific knowledge available to the department including pest interception data and previous commodity based PRAs. This improved approach also provides significant opportunities to identify and address new and emerging risks in order to maintain Australia’s high level of biosecurity protection.
Group pest risk analysis
A PRA is the process of evaluating evidence to determine whether an organism is a pest, if it should be regulated, and the strength of any phytosanitary measures to be taken against it to manage biosecurity risk.
A group PRA synthesises knowledge of groups of pests and diseases with similar biological characteristics to help manage the biosecurity risks associated with commodity movement.
Group PRAs are:
- built on a foundation of more than 18 years of PRAs by the department through an extensive process of robust scientific analysis and stakeholder consultation with state and territory authorities, industry organisations and trading partners;
- validated with scientific evidence, including 26 years of interception data collected at Australia’s borders, and examination of thousands of research papers on significant pests recognised internationally, in Australian industry biosecurity plans, and those identified as regional pests for Australia in consultation with states and territories;
- building blocks that can be used to review existing or prospective trade pathways for which a PRA is required, avoiding the need to 'reinvent the wheel' when analysing the risks of individual species, whilst maintaining a robust system to protect against exotic pest and disease incursions.
There are three principal steps in the process of developing group PRAs:
- The department’s experts conduct a review of scientific knowledge of pests and diseases of concern;
- A draft group PRA, prepared by the department is released for stakeholder comment. The draft PRA identifies the risks and risk management measures required to achieve Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP); and
- The department considers stakeholder comments and publishes the final group PRA, a biosecurity advice notice will be issued upon completion. This marks the end of the review process.
The intention is to use group pest risk analyses to review existing or prospective trade pathways when the relevant pests and diseases are identified.
Group pest risk analysis for thrips and tospoviruses on fresh fruit, vegetable, cut-flower and foliage imports
The first group PRA being conducted by the department considers the biosecurity risk posed by plant-eating insects called thrips (order Thysanoptera) that spread the virus genus Tospovirus that may be associated with imports of fresh fruit, vegetables, cut flowers or foliage imported into Australia.
Thrips, and the tospoviruses they transmit, can significantly reduce the yield, quality and marketability of fruit, vegetable, legume and ornamental crops. Tospoviruses are a significant emerging risk to Australia, with many recent reports of new species with rapidly expanding host plant ranges, geographic distributions and thrips vectors.
The risks posed by thrips or tospoviruses on nursery stock imports will be considered in a separate review. The department will consult with stakeholders if any changes are required for existing nursery stock import conditions.
The department has released the draft report on the group PRA for thrips and tospoviruses that may be associated with imports of fresh fruit, vegetables, cut flowers or foliage, and details proposed phytosanitary measures.
In the draft group PRA, organisms are grouped if they share similar biological characteristics resulting in similar likelihoods of entry, establishment and spread and comparable consequences – thus posing a similar level of biosecurity risk.
Stakeholders are invited to provide written comments and submissions on the draft report during an extended 90 calendar day consultation period due to the Christmas break, closing on 14 March 2017. Comments and submissions will be considered during preparation of the final report and responded to prior to its release in 2017.
For more information, contact Plant Biosecurity or phone +61 2 6272 5094.
Quarantine pests identified in the draft report
The draft report identifies the key quarantine pests of biosecurity importance to Australia in these two groups of organisms and indicates that certain thrips species are ‘repeat offenders’ that are associated with a broad range of plant commodities from many countries.
The thrips of potential biosecurity importance to Australia are phytophagous (plant-eating). Within this group, 80 thrips species were confirmed as quarantine pests for Australia. The draft group PRA also identified 27 tospoviruses that are quarantine pests for Australia.
These thrips and tospovirus quarantine pests are all estimated to have an ‘indicative’ unrestricted risk estimate of ‘low’ which does not achieve the appropriate level of protection (ALOP) for Australia.
Pest risk management measures
The group PRA proposes that the quarantine status of three thrips species that are present in Australia be changed from their current non-regulated status to regulated—Frankliniella schultzei, Scirtothrips dorsalis and Thrips tabaci—because they can carry and transmit quarantine tospoviruses. This change is not expected to significantly affect trade.
Phytosanitary measures are identified in the draft report for use in specific cases where measures are required. These measures are consistent with long-standing established policy for quarantine thrips and also mitigate the risk posed by the quarantine tospoviruses they transmit.
- For fresh fruit and vegetables, consignments must be verified as not infested with quarantine thrips by standard visual inspection procedures. Consignments found to be infested with quarantine thrips, require appropriate remedial action(s).
- For cut flowers and foliage, which are routinely found to be infested with quarantine thrips, mandatory fumigation is an appropriate risk management option unless equivalent arrangements have been approved.
Identification of regional differences for Australian states and territories
An early draft of the report was provided to jurisdictions of all Australian states and territories in late 2015. The department received constructive and positive feedback for the new group PRA approach as well as specific comments on regional differences. These were considered in the development of the draft group PRA.
The first group PRA considers the biosecurity risk posed by all members of the insect order Thysanoptera (commonly referred to as thrips) and all members of the virus genus Tospovirus that are (or are likely) to be associated with fresh fruit, vegetables, cut flowers or foliage imported into Australia as commercial consignments.
All World Trade Organization (WTO) Members are signatories to the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement), under which they have both rights and obligations.
The basic obligations of the SPS Agreement are that SPS measures must:
- be based on a risk assessment appropriate to the circumstances or drawn from standards developed by the World Organization for Animal Health and the International Plant Protection Convention
- only be applied to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health
- be based on science
- not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between WTO members, or be a disguised restriction on trade.
Under the SPS Agreement, each WTO Member is entitled to maintain a level of protection it considers appropriate to protect human, animal or plant life or health within its territory – in other words, its appropriate level of protection.
The development of group PRAs has been made possible under the 2015 Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper which has provided funding to strengthen Australia's biosecurity system.
Appropriate level of protection
Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP) is defined in the Biosecurity Act 2015 as providing: a high level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection, aimed at reducing biosecurity risk to a very low level, but not to zero.
This definition has been reached with the agreement of all state and territory governments and recognises that a zero risk stance is impractical because this would mean Australia would have no tourists, no international travel and no imports.
The ALOP is a broad objective, and risk management measures are established to achieve that objective.
The term ‘biosecurity risk’ is used to describe the combination of the likelihood and the consequences of a pest or disease of biosecurity concern entering, establishing and spreading in Australia.
Australia's biosecurity system protects our unique environment and agricultural sector and supports our reputation as a safe and reliable trading nation. This has significant economic, environmental and community benefits for all Australians.
New scientific information
Scientific information can be provided to the department at any time, including after a review has been completed. The department will consider the information provided and will review the import policy, if required.
Email: Plant Biosecurity
Phone: +61 2 6272 5094