Vol. 17 | No. 1 | February 2020

Getting better will not be good enough – The wicked problem of biosecurity

Over the past 30 years, Australian seafood industries have been devastated by a steady march of disease outbreaks, often with little or no warning. Each episode has been devastating, and all have starkly illustrated aquatic disease management’s primary challenge: the underwater world has no fences. Given the absence of effective barriers for disease containment in freshwater and marine environments, how can one establish a “firebreak” when an exotic virus or a pest gets in the ocean? 

Simply doing what we’ve done in the past, but better, is no longer sufficient. Instead, we need to challenge ourselves to find new ways of thinking and acting on biosecurity [and] we need to change how we fund biosecurity research. The sector approach does not work for addressing the large-scale systems that need to be improved. These changes will demand new ways of thinking that encompass technology, trade policy, whole supply chains, natural ecosystems, and their final intersection at the farm gate. (more)



Melinee Leather and Paul Zalai give their views on current threats to our biosecurity, answering questions on: the largest current threat to Australia's biosecurity; whether current policies are robust; and whether the broader industry and community are aware of the significance of biosecurity in protecting Australia’s food security. 

Paul Zalai: "Our biosecurity system underpins our international reputation as an exporter of safe, quality and sustainable food and fibre. Our global customers seek Australian products because we do not have the destructive pests and diseases found in other parts of the world that can have such an impact on yield and nutrition." (more)


The biosecurity risks to which Australia’s agricultural sector is exposed are in a state of flux. As the production environment evolves and trade arrangements morph, as tourism increases, climate change implications intensify and as supply chain dynamics become increasingly complex, biosecurity needs are changing markedly. 

Australia’s biosecurity system is complex and multilayered, comprising of many components and actions. Measures are undertaken by a range of participants across the biosecurity continuum offshore, at the border and onshore. (more)


While land use conflict is an issue that is not specific to agriculture, it’s one with impacts that are particularly felt in the farming community. Farmers can suffer significant economic impacts from land use conflict, such as loss of productive land to buffers, implementation of remediation measures to mitigate neighbourhood tension, and legal and consultancy costs in defence of complaints. 

However, AFI’s research on managing farm-related land use conflicts in NSW shows the most severe impacts on farmers from these disputes are non-financial. (more)


AFI staff regularly attend and present at conferences and forums around the country. These meetings provide fantastic opportunities to talk to the stakeholders of the Institute and get feedback on the issues that are front of mind in Australian agriculture. No amount of desk-based research can replace face-to-face interactions with people who are experiencing first hand the policy issues that AFI focuses on. Recently AFI staff have visited Albury, Narrabri, Gunnedah, Coffs Harbour and Camden as part of a project investigating land use conflict. (more)