Seed biosecurity review

The Department of Agriculture is conducting a review of import conditions for brassicaceous crop seed for sowing (review webpage).

Most vegetable seeds are currently imported under our standard import conditions for seeds for sowing. Recent changes to the risk profile of brassicaceous crop seed have prompted the Department to review the existing import conditions to ensure they adequately address biosecurity risks.

Organic industry representations

Following concerns raised by organic operators, Organic Industries of Australia and organic operators met with the Department on 11 April 2018 to discuss alternative risk management options that are commercially viable and do not compromise Australia’s biosecurity.

As a result of the meeting, the Department agreed to consider alternative equivalent options that do not involve chemical treatment or that use substances permitted by the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce. These alternative options include, but are not limited to, testing of seed to demonstrate absence of the pathogens of quarantine concern, and use of hot water treatment. Other options proposed by the organic industry will also be considered by the department if the efficacy of the measure can be demonstrated.

For further information on the meeting please read the Department's communiqué.

Submission

To avoid the likely decimation of the Australian organic vegetable sector, the industry requests that the proposed additional phytosanitary measures allow a generous sunset clause for the continued importation of seed, and the use of equivalent alternative treatments to broad spectrum fungicides.

The industry encourages the department to undertake research into alternative seed treatments that may be accepted under the National Standard before any change is made to the importation conditions.

Prior to adopting the findings of the review, the industry urges the Government to undertake a regulatory impact assessment of the costs and economic implications for the organic industry of adopting the proposals.

If the proposed additional phytosanitary measures are adopted, the industry considers that there should be greater effort placed on the fostering of an Australian organic seed industry, for reasons of biosecurity, self reliance and enhancing exports of both organic crops and organic seeds. We suggest that the Department cooperate with the organic industry to take advantage of the opportunities for the production of organic seed in Australia, including taking into account the strategies employed in other countries, the existing seed production base, the documented organic seed shortage held in certifiers’ records, and the local producer knowledge that is already here and willing to be shared.

Organic Industries of Australia has established a technical committee, through which it is willing to work on these issues with the Department.

Download the industry's full submission here.

Technical committee

Organic Industries of Australia will convene a technical committee of organic operators and certifiers to continue consultations with the Department on this issue.

For furthermore information contact Project.Manger@organicindustries.com.au or 0448 439 334