Simon Cook 2018 Nuffield Scholar – Global Insights: Biosecurity, from the border to the farm gate

My interest in biosecurity started with the harsh lessons of the PSA incursion into kiwifruit in New Zealand. My small orchard was only 500m away from ground zero and like all growers, I got a crash course in the importance of basic biosecurity and hygiene practices.  

I started my Nuffield travels around the world hoping to look at examples of on farm biosecurity practices. It was disappointing to see a total lack of preparedness worldwide, and the only farmers engaging in biosecurity had done so after an incursion had already established.  

The worst example of this was, after visiting farms in Qatar which is known to have foot and mouth, we could fly directly to France and head straight from the airport onto a dairy farm with no questions asked. Its little wonder that worldwide we are seeing an increase in exotic pest incursions taking their toll on agricultural production.  

Even with world class biosecurity protecting our border, we cannot stop everything. Once we accept that, then it becomes critical what happens inside the border and how we as individuals protect our own border – the farm gate. 

After 20 weeks and as many countries it was great to finally meet a farmer that got Biosecurity. He was a banana farmer from Queensland facing the threat of TR4 – a devastating banana disease. One of his comments that really struck me was biosecurity wasn’t about the things you do – the procedures the footbaths. Biosecurity is about culture. It’s about creating a culture that encourages everyone to accept responsibility for their own biosecurity.  

 The challenge is where will the drive to change this culture come from. Farmers in Britain have forgotten the lessons of foot and mouth and in the kiwifruit industry after only 7 years we are already losing the lessons we learnt. The only way to overcome this is to create a culture where biosecurity is just a part of everyday life – it becomes business as usual. 

 It’s pleasing to see the launch in New Zealand of Biosecurity 2025’s campaign Ko Tatou – this is us which is about trying to start a national culture of biosecurity awareness. The key is how do we build on this and how do we create this culture within the primary industries. 

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