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MAF Biosecurity NZ asked to suspend artificial pollination



21 November 2010
MAF Biosecurity NZ asked to suspend artificial pollination

Due to biosecurity concerns and to check the potential spread of Psa, Federated Farmers is calling for Kiwifruit ‘artificial pollination’ to be suspended. The Federation will further ask for all imports of pollen to be suspended, until MAF Biosecurity NZ (Biosecurity NZ), is able to certify imported pollen as being free of viruses and pathogens, not present in New Zealand.

“Who in their right mind would continue to tempt fate using ‘artificial pollination’? While it may boost orchard output, there are also serious biosecurity concerns about its integrity,” says John Hartnell, Federated Farmers Biosecurity spokesperson.

“Federated Farmers believes the precautionary principle needs to apply. That starts by ceasing artificial Kiwifruit pollination until the pollen, both domestic and imported, is certified clean.

“We don’t say this lightly but we were deeply concerned when Psa was found in samples of imported pollen last week. Biosecurity NZ, only on Friday, confirmed it has advised the Chilean embassy it is testing imported Chilean pollen.

“It would now appear Psa has been in New Zealand for more than a year. Psa have been found in New Zealand sourced pollen samples from 2009, as well as from this year.

“If that’s the case, then it’s possible that ‘artificial pollination’ may have unwittingly spread Psa, as could the movement of contract harvesting machinery from orchard to orchard. This has not yet been determined, but that uncertainty is why the precautionary principle should be adopted.

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“Despite these significant developments, growers are just being asked to be ‘cautious’ when considering artificial pollination.

“On a more distressing note, who in their right mind would put at risk the New Zealand’s bee industry? It is well recognised that more than 80 percent of all pollination world-wide, including Kiwifruit, is done by honeybees. To jeopardise this has massive implications.

“Bee industry leaders are alarmed that testing for bee related pests and diseases was seemingly not part of the screening process for imported artificial pollen. So who is accountable and who should pay for the incursion response?

“The disturbing fact is that untested pollen has been allowed into New Zealand from risk countries like China and Chile. From a bee industry perspective, this poses serious questions, over import health standards, risk analysis and the pollen testing regime.

“While every industry is entitled to make good decisions to enhance output and quality, this must not be at the expense of another industry or sector.

“The recent discovery of Nosema ceranae in the Coromandel is yet another major blow to the bee industry. Regretfully, Biosecurity NZ determined it was already ‘established’ in New Zealand and no further action was warranted.

“However, this begs the question if there is linkage between the importation of pollen over recent years and Nosema ceranae’s discovery. One would assume it’s unlikely but we may never know.

“And it’s not as if we don’t have evidence of the risk posed by pollen. Biosecurity NZ staff were authors of published an international paper in 2007, tellingly titled, Plant pathogens transmitted by pollen.

“It found that 39 plant viruses are pollen-transmitted, a further six were tentatively considered to be pollen-transmitted and a limited number of fungal pathogens. While that study was pretty much confined to vegetable crops, it confirms pollen as a biosecurity risk vector.

“Looking further afield, we see the pig industry is also calling for commonsense. MAF Biosecurity is currently proposing to let raw pig meat in to New Zealand from countries with a serious disease, which our pig industry doesn’t have. That carries a huge risk with it, but will sanity prevail?

“The clock is ticking and we need to see some decisive actions,” Mr Hartnell concluded.


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