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Greens Urge Ban On Californian Grapes To Stay

2 September 2002

Greens Urge Ban On Californian Grapes To Stay

Green Biosecurity Spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street today said he was very concerned at suggestions that a ban on the import of Californian grapes could be lifted in as little as a few weeks.

Imports of Californian table grapes were banned last year after four live black widow spiders, and a number of other exotic spiders, were found in grape shipments within three months.

"The Greens pushed really hard to have these imports banned on the grounds that to continue importing them posed too great a risk to our biosecurity," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"The risk of allowing the imports to continue was unacceptable and nothing seems to have changed to substantially reduce the risks."

Mr Ewen-Street said it was also a concern that Californian vineyards are presently being devastated by Pierce's Disease - a fatal, incurable disease of grapevines.

"Any chance of introducing Pierce's Disease to New Zealand, no matter how slight, constitutes a major threat to our wine industry. While this ban has been in place we have sourced grapes from other countries and I can see no reason why this cannot continue."

Mr Ewen-Street said four live black widows in just three months showed that if the import of 400,000 boxes of Californian grapes per annum was allowed to resume, the possibility of somebody being hurt or the spiders becoming established in New Zealand was a real risk.

"We have every right to protect our borders and our people from unacceptable biosecurity risks and I urge the Government to immediately reject any proposal to allow these shipments to resume.

"I challenge the Government to tell New Zealanders what guarantees there will be that shoppers will not find live poisonous spiders in their table grapes if we open up this trade again."

For information on the Black Widow spider see http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2061A.html

Ends


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