Biosecurity system needs overhaul stay effective: CSIRO report

Biosecurity system needs overhaul within 10 years to stay effective: CSIRO report

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Our biosecurity system will struggle to meet future challenges, even with a tripling of investment over the next 10 years, a new CSIRO report says.

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AUSTRALIA'S biosecurity system will struggle to meet future challenges, even with a tripling of investment over the next 10 years, a new CSIRO report says.

In 2020 alone, farmers have seen the arrival of army worms, outbreaks of bird flu and up to 20 new weeds discovered - not to mention COVID-19.

The CSIRO report said the nation's biosecurity system needs a significant overhaul to continue protecting environmental assets worth $6.5 trillion, and made 20 recommendations to prepare it for the coming challenges.

Although the country has one of the strongest biosecurity systems in the world, the report found there was an increasing risk of disease outbreaks and pest incursions, weakened exports, and damage to Australia's global trading reputation.

At least 75 per cent of emerging human infectious diseases - such as the SARS, swine flu and COVID-19 - originate from animals, while in the five years to 2017, the amount of biosecurity risk materials intercepted in Australia increased by almost 50 per cent.

CSIRO's health and biosecurity director Rob Grenfell said although the current system has "served us well in the past, continuing business as usual won't work".

"We need to take this unique opportunity to transform Australia's biosecurity system so it can cope with the growing volume and complexity of threats," Dr Grenfell said.

"How Australia navigates the changes needed over the next decade will significantly impact the health of Australians, our communities, ecosystems and agricultural systems and food security into the future."

The report's recommendations revolve around national data sharing and surveillance programs, sharing responsibility, and utilising science and technology.

Centre for Invasive Species Solutions boss Andreas Glanznig said using new tech to strength the "biodiversity shield" was a "no brainer".

"Environmental DNA genetic surveillance is already poised to make a significant contribution in being able to detect new bugs, new diseases, new risks, before they even get to Australia," Mr Glanznig said.

"Collaboration and innovation are central to transforming our national biosecurity system so that it meets the challenges and pressures of the 21st century."

Animal Health Australia Kathleen Plowman chief executive said shared responsibility was the "untapped resource" that would help transform the biosecurity system.

Biosecurity duties have to go beyond the traditional managers - such as farmers and governments - and involving other impacted groups including local businesses, travellers and the "everyday Australian".

"What we need is a nationally coordinated system with a greater focus on prevention," Ms Plowman said.

"Shared responsibility is all about harnessing the collective knowledge and capability of our citizens, our communities, our industries and our governments."

Plant Health Australia chief executive Sarah Corcoran said the biosecurity system needed greater data sharing across supply chains, industry and government so early threats can be quickly detected.

"The advanced data sharing systems would let governments, industry and researchers quickly respond to biosecurity threats, effectively collaborate and spearhead technological innovation," Ms Corcoran said.

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the Government would consider the recommendations outlined in the report.

"Biosecurity is one of the key pillars that supports the Australian agricultural industry's ambitious goal of earning $100 billion by 2030," he said.

"The Australian Government is investing $873 million for biosecurity and export programs in 2020-21."

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