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Greens Call For Ban On Imported California Grapes

Greens Call For Immediate Ban On Imported Californian Grapes

Green Party Biosecurity Spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street MP today called on the Government to ban the import of Californian grape products as vineyards in California continue to be devastated by Pierce's Disease.

Pierce's disease is caused by the Xylella Fastidiosa bacterium which is spread by a small cicada-like insect called the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter. The disease is especially lethal to grape vines, choking off water and nutrient supplies causing death.

"Viticulture in New Zealand is booming and contributes millions and millions of dollars to our national economy. Regions like Marlborough, Gisborne and the Hawkes Bay are investing heavily in viticulture and the industry is becoming increasingly crucial not only for the regions but for New Zealand's entire economy," said Mr Ewen-Street.

The Glassy Winged Sharpshooter lays its eggs on the leaves and stems of grape vines and, while New Zealand biosecurity claims to have all leaves removed from grapes before they enter the country, Mr Ewen-Street said any risk is too great.

"We have so much to lose and so little to gain," he said. "All it would potentially take to devastate the viticulture industry in New Zealand is for just one egg mass to make its way into this country. Why take the risk?"

Mr Ewen-Street said it was crazy that in his home town of Blenheim - a region surrounded by a huge number of vineyards - people could still buy imported Californian grapes from supermarkets.

"If banning the import of these grapes due to the very real risk they pose to this country's economy is in breach of the World Trade Organisation then we need to question the wisdom of remaining in this organisation," he said.

"Pierce's disease can also affect avocado and stonefruit orchards and if this disease ever arrived here we could see some of our key industries damaged on a scale similar to that seen in the UK with the outbreak of BSE and Foot and Mouth Disease," he said.

"Far from being alarmist this is a very real possibility while we continue to import Californian grape products. We call on the Government to be proactive and give our thriving viticulture industry the protection it deserves."

Ian Ewen-Street MP: 025 902 527

Attached is an information fact sheet on the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter

Quick Facts About Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter and Pierce's Disease Scientific name of GWSS: Homalodisca coagulata Description of GWSS: Adults are 1/2-inch long, dark brown color with small yellow dots on head and thorax. Wings membranous, translucent, with reddish veins. How damage is caused: GWSS is a sucking insect that extracts fluid from host plants. This feeding can spread lethal diseases to host plants just as mosquitoes can transmit malaria in humans. The pest is highly mobile and can feed and spread disease to many plants in a day. Bacterium spread by GWSS: Xylella fastidiosa Diseases* vectored by GWSS (strains of Xylella fastidiosa): Pierce's disease (grapes) Leaf scorch (almonds) Alfalfa dwarf (alfalfa) Oleander scorch (oleander) Phony peach disease (peaches) Plum leaf scald (plums) Citrus variegated chlorosis (citrus) How disease kills plants: The bacterium attacks a plant's xylem, or water-conducting tissues, and eventually chokes off water and nutrient supplies. Infected plants lose their vigor and gradually die. How long Pierce's disease has been in state : Periodically since at least the 1880s when it wiped out 40,000 acres of winegrapes in the Los Angeles Basin GWSS host plants: 100 species of plants GWSS first sighted in California: 1989 Distribution : Southern United States and northern Mexico. Range has extended into southern and central California Number of counties with GWSS infested areas (2000): 13: Butte, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Tulare, Ventura Threat to state: $14 billion in crops, jobs, residential plants and trees, native plants, trees and habitat

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