Biosecurity is the process by which the risks and impacts to the economy, the environment, plant and animal industries, social amenity or human health associated with pests and diseases is mitigated.
Australia’s isolation as an island nation has played an important role in the country’s biosecurity; however, globalisation is increasing the trade of goods and movement of people across the world, subsequently increasing our exposure to the spread of pests and diseases. There has been a noticeable increase in biosecurity events over the past decade, and these incidents are likely to become more frequent as our climate and environment change and globalisation continues.
Biosecurity is extremely important to Queensland, as pests and diseases can have major economic impacts on our primary industries and threaten our unique biodiversity. They can also pose an extreme threat to human health, as over the past two decades, 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases have had the ability to be transmitted from animal to human (called zoonoses).
In November 2013, the Queensland Government introduced a new Biosecurity Bill, a plan to establish a world class biosecurity system with specialised diagnostic, quarantine and treatment facilities and developing the capability of Queenslanders to undertake biosecurity activities and deliver biosecurity services. Biosecurity Queensland, a subdivision of the Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, “coordinates the government’s efforts to prevent, respond to, and recover from pests and diseases that threaten the economy and environment”.
Many major biosecurity threats come from neighbouring countries and have the potential to cripple many of our export industries if we are unable to prevent invasion. For example, if an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease was to be detected anywhere in Australia, it would cost the Queensland economy more than AU$9 billion.
Recognising the importance of biosecurity to the State’s economy and health, the Queensland Government has established the Biosecurity Sciences Laboratory (BSL) in Brisbane. The BSL engages in a wide variety of veterinary diagnostic testing, as well as identification and investigation of new and emerging diseases and surveillance and diagnosis of diseases in the livestock industries.
There are many opportunities for biotechnological applications and innovations to contribute to the protection of Queensland’s people, animals, environment and industries. These include developing technologies to enhance detection, understanding the characteristics and transmission mechanisms of infectious agents and developing advanced surveillance systems.