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The challenge

Managing biosecurity risks to our nation

Loss of trade, tourism and other costs associated with disease recovery, costs the Australian economy billions of dollars. ©  Gary Radler 2010

Biosecurity is about understanding and managing risks to our national health, economy, industries and environment, from invasive pests, weeds and pathogens entering, spreading or establishing in Australian waters or on our land.

Australia's reputation as an exporter of high-quality, clean agricultural produce depends largely on its freedom from exotic pests and diseases. The introduction of exotic pests and diseases could have serious environmental and economic consequences for Australia, for example it has been estimated that a major outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease could cost Australia in the order of $50 billion.

This costly impact is felt through loss of trade, tourism and other costs associated with disease management and the recovery from a disease outbreak. Increasing global trade means Australia is now facing greater national security challenges in protecting itself against these biosecurity threats.

Our response

A responsive biosecurity system

Over the last 50 years CSIRO has saved and will continue to save Australian agriculture billions of dollars in impacts and reduced environmental degradation from nationally important emerging infectious diseases.

Through a proud history of biosecurity research, CSIRO has had a profound impact on Australia's biosecurity status.

For example, in 2007, Australia faced its first outbreak of equine influenza (EI), also known as horse flu - an acute, highly contagious, viral disease that can cause rapidly spreading outbreaks of respiratory disease in horses, donkeys, mules and other equine species. Scientists based at our sophisticated high containment facility - the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, in Geelong, Victoria - played a key role in the national response to eradicate EI from the Australian horse population.

A test originally developed for bird flu by CSIRO and the Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre was successfully used to test horses during and following the outbreak. The test detects both strains of the bird flu virus as well as other strains of influenza and is complete in a few hours. This provided a high level of confidence in Australia's capacity to detect equine influenza and the nation was officially declared free from the disease in June 2008, in what has proved to be the largest exotic animal disease event in Australian history.

We continue to strive to deliver sustainable benefits to the productivity of our agriculture, fisheries, forestry and other industries at risk from new and existing biological threats. Our research aims to reduce the risk of invasion or emergence of infectious diseases and limit the spread of disease during a potential outbreak.

Through our research and partnering with government and industry, we support the protection and growth of trade and market access nationally and internationally and reduce the negative impacts to our communities, economy and environment.

Overall we aim for a biosecurity system that is pre-emptive, responsive, resilient, and based on cutting edge surveillance, informatics and new technologies for integrated response.

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