by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Quarantine: NZ suspends California grape imports
, May 18, 2002
Biosecurity Australia recently announced it will allow California table grapes into Australia despite the risk of importing Pierce's Disease (the plant equivalent of foot and mouth disease) and the disease's main insect transmitter, the glassy winged sharp shooter.
However, New Zealand has recently suspended imports from California for about six months because of the discovery of four black widow spiders in as many months among boxes of table grapes.
Under New Zealand's risk assessment analysis on California grapes, NZ was prepared to accept one spider per million bunches of grapes. It imports 400,000 boxes of grapes annually.
Following the third spider discovery, an audit of US fumigation systems was established. But despite increased inspection rates, registration of California grape growers and fumigation, another spider was found on a supermarket shelf.
The concern is that if four black widow spiders can survive fumigation, cooling and transportation, then the much more difficult to detect glassy winged sharp shooter could also survive, establish in the NZ environment and devastate the country's thriving wine industry by spreading Pierce's disease.
The disease has devastated large areas of California's vineyards. The glassy winged sharp shooter thrives on eucalypts, among other plants, and would be impossible to eradicate if it established itself in Australia.
NZ's experience with other imported reptiles and frogs should also be a warning to Australian quarantine authorities, currently considering allowing Philippines bananas into Australia. A recent study in the New Zealand Journal of Zoology
found that of 189 recoded reptile and amphibians accidentally imported into the country in the past 70 years, 16% entered the country with imported bananas.
About half of all the intercepted animals had passed through border controls and were detected after the distribution of the cargo and 86% of the animals were alive when detected.