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Greens Call Again For Ban On Californian Grapes

Green Party Biosecurity spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street said today that a ban on imported Californian grapes is the only way to deal with the biosecurity hazard they present.

"The Government beefed up the biosecurity rules for Californian grapes only two months ago, but a black widow spider has slipped through in only the second shipment to make it here this season.

"Increased inspection rates, registration of Californian exporters and fumigation have not worked.

"It's time New Zealand as a country said - 'look, getting out-of-season grapes from California is just not worth the risks to our health and to our wine industry'."

The discovery of the black widow spider in a supermarket prompted a warning from the Health Ministry for shoppers and retailers to watch out for more of the poisonous spiders.

"A bite from this spider could be lethal for some people such as the very old or babies," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"At least in this case the spider has been spotted and captured before it did any damage. What really gives me the heebie-jeebies is the thought that glassy-winged sharp-shooter is much less likely to be spotted, and therefore much more likely to get established here.

"If a black widow spider can get in, what's to stop a glassy-winged sharp-shooter getting in too?"

Glassy-winged sharp-shooters carry Pierce's disease which has devastated the wine industry in California.

"I've seen first-hand bulldozers ripping up vines in California that have been sucked dry by this disease," said Mr Ewen-Street. "It's the plant equivalent to foot and mouth.

"We stringently banned all sheep and cattle products from our shores during the foot and mouth epidemic. Our wine industry is a valuable and growing part of our export market. Let's give it the same respect and protection that we give our farmers, and ban Californian grapes while Pierce's disease is epidemic in Californian vineyards."


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