Issues Magazine

Articles about biosecurity

Emerging Diseases: Where Are We Now?

By Brian Jones and Martyn Jeggo

Two members of a 2004 think tank look back to see how Australia has responded since this meeting to the ever-increasing risks from emerging diseases, in particular to aquaculture.

Progress in Ship Ballast Water Treatment

By Gustaaf Hallegraeff

A number of promising ballast water treatment systems that aim to eliminate the risk of translocating harmful marine phytoplankton, zooplankton and bacteria are in various stages of national or international certification.

Shipping moves over 80% of the world’s commodities, and in the process transfers approximately three to five billion tonnes of ballast water internationally each year. Ballast water is water carried by ships to ensure stability, trim and structural integrity, and is therefore essential to the safe and efficient operation of modern shipping, providing balance and stability to unladen ships. However, it also poses a serious ecological, economic and health threat that was only fully recognised in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Converging Technologies for Biosecurity

By Greg Tegart and Stephen Prowse

The “converging technologies” approach – cross-disciplinary linkages with a common goal – has a role to play in Australia’s biosecurity capabilities.

The issue of biosecurity is of particular relevance to the Asia–Pacific region in view of the recent outbreaks of SARS and avian influenza. In the latter case, the H5N1 virus is now entrenched in much of Asia and has spread to Africa and Europe, raising fears of a pandemic.

Myth-Busting Cane Toads in Australia

By Robert J. Capon

Undeterred by physical and biological control strategies, can cane toads be halted by chemical ecology?

The cane toad (Bufo marinus) was introduced into the sugar cane-growing regions of northern Queensland in 1935 in an unsuccessful attempt at biocontrol of the sugar cane beetle (Dermolepida albohirtum). The planning and forethought behind this endeavour seem, at least by modern standards, woefully inadequate.

Quarantine and Biosecurity: An Entomologist’s Perspective

By Max Whitten

Biosecurity helps us control what we let into Australia and what we keep out. Getting the balance right requires constant vigilance. Dung beetles, honeybees and biocontrol agents show us why.

We each are likely to see biosecurity, its opportunities and challenges, through our own personal and professional experiences. For many, securing our biodiversity and protecting our health is little more than the visible hand of quarantine that greets visitors and returning nationals at our international airports.

Statistics and Biosecurity

By David R. Fox

The “risk” and “results” perspectives of biosurveillance rely on maths, probability and statistics.

Australia is free of the world’s worst animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease and bird flu (avian influenza, H5N1), although the list of potential threats is long ( There are good reasons for taking whatever steps are necessary to ensure that this status is maintained.

Social, Economic and Environmental Drivers of Disease Emergence

By Stephen J. Prowse

The emergence of new diseases and re-emergence of known diseases is related to a complex matrix of social, economic and environmental factors. Difficulties predicting the next disease outbreak mean we need to have the skills and agility to respond to the unexpected.

We are now in a period where we are seeing more infectious disease epidemics than ever before, many of them such as sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) completely unexpected. A recent analysis showed that emerging infectious disease outbreaks have been increasing in frequency since 1940. There is no reason to think that this trend will not continue.

Biosecurity Defends Key Rural Industry

By Catherine Norwood

Australian researchers are studying genetic codes to learn how insects like the lesser grain borer are developing resistance to the world’s most widely used grain fumigant – phosphine.

With the harvest safely stored, grain growers often take a moment to relax; but not so the scientists involved in a national research effort to keep stored grain safe from feasting insects and to maintain Australia’s hard-earned reputation as a supplier of clean, pest-free grain.

Stored grain insects are a constant threat to grain exports – worth some $7 billion each year to the national economy.

Australia offers overseas grain buyers a “zero tolerance” benchmark for insect infestation, and this is a key element in Australia’s international competitiveness.

The Beale Review of Biosecurity

By Edited extract

In September 2008, an independent panel of experts chaired by Roger Beale provided its review of Australia’s quarantine and biosecurity arrangements to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The opening chapter of the review sets the scene.

Biosecurity is a relatively new term. It is significantly broader than quarantine, which in a Constitutional sense is restricted to the consideration of diseases and disease agents, with an emphasis on containment and exclusion. The narrow definition of quarantine does not include pests and weeds that are not disease vectors but are nevertheless capable of causing great economic or environmental damage.

“Plant Doctors” a Global Prescription for Plant Pests

By Sarah Wilson

Plant pests and diseases are on the move, and they are not respecting national borders. CABI’s Global Plant Clinic, through its partners and community-based plant clinics, has been helping to map their global spread.


By Sally Woollett

Editor, Issues

An overview of what's in this edition of Issues.

Australia’s biota was in for a shock with the arrival of European explorers and settlers. European ships carried people along with plants and animals of both terrestrial and marine varieties. Viruses and microorganisms such as mould and bacteria were inevitable passengers. Some were legitimate travellers; others were stowaways. Some have joined the ranks of the most intractable biosecurity problems in Australia.