Plant bio-security under scrutiny by Maria Taylor

A HIGH level review of Australia's wheat breeding institutions will report by the end of June on the adequacy of processes governing bio-safety of plant and related research materials during their importation into Australia and during the exchange of material within Australia.

The Commonwealth - State Primary Industries Standing Committee review follows the recent discovery of Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus at Australian research facilities. The more recent 'escape' of a broom rust pathotype from CSIRO Entomology in Canberra will also be looked at in light of bio-safety protocols.

Heading the review is John Radcliffe, Special Adviser to CSIRO. Also on the panel is Keith Perrett, President of the Grains Council of Australia, Kevin Sheridan, former CEO of the NSW Department of Agriculture, Tony Fischer, Program Manager Australian Centre for T nternational Agricultural Research (and a member of the GRDC Board) and Mick Calley fonner Director of Plant Quarantine.

Dr Radcliffe said the team will take a strategic look at protocols and processes and identify areas where improvements might be made. He said the objective is to look ahead to ensure Australia has the best possible protection from the risk of importing exotic crop pests and diseases.

"We have asked AFFA (the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia) for details of current quality control protocols governing importation of new biological material from overseas; the extent of materials being brought in; and subsequent movement that takes place between laboratories after the initial quarantine protocols have been met by the importing research institution," he said.

The review will also analyse other relevant issues including accreditation of research facilities.

AFFA has been asked to gather this information from plant breeding organisations in the public and private sectors.

Dr Radcliffe said the review panel will also meet with relevant research units, initially in Canberra and Adelaide.