THE provisional final Import Risk Analysis (IRA) released by DAFF Biosecurity in June 2012 recommended imports of fresh, decrowned pineapple should be allowed from all commercial production areas of Malaysia, subject to a range of quarantine conditions.
As the peak pineapple industry body, Growcom argued at the Senate inquiry in Brisbane this week that DAFF Biosecurity has significantly underestimated the risk posed by the potential introduction of a bacterial pathogen.
This is not an argument about trade policy - it's purely about quarantine and biosecurity.
The main point of contention is the potential introduction of the pathogen erwinia chrysanthemi, recently renamed dickeya sp, which causes bacterial heart rot and fruit collapse.
In the 2008 National Pineapple Industry Biosecurity Plan, the pathogen was listed as one of five priority threats and allocated the highest level of risk.
The level of threat was estimated to be high for entry potential, establishment potential, spread potential, economic impact and overall risk.
Growcom and the pineapple industry have based this position on the advice of a group of scientists who, between them, have over 120 peer-reviewed publications in plant pathology.
In the provisional final IRA, DAFF Biosecurity either ignored this evidence, applied inconsistent standards of evidence, and/or reached illogical conclusions about the level of risk.
We believe some of these problems result from process issues.
Growcom has lodged a formal appeal based on what we believe are clear departures from the regulated IRA process.
Given the level of scientific disagreement, the IRA should have followed an expanded process that provides more time for the analysis and also engages an eminent scientists' group to conduct a more rigorous review of the evidence.
Given there are many areas where scientific information is inadequate or inconsistent, DAFF Biosecurity should have stopped the clock to allow for more research.
Where information is lacking, DAFF Biosecurity should have requested the proponents provide the necessary information to enable a robust assessment of risk.
DAFF Biosecurity's failure to apply these additional measures has resulted in a poor decision.
As a result, the pineapple industry will be exposed to an unnecessarily high level of quarantine risk.