Media Release

Strengthening biosecurity measures to combat plant virus

23 October 2014

Strengthened biosecurity measures mean that cucurbit seeds imported into Australia will now need to be tested and found to be free of cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV), and the importation of plant genetic materials and nursery stocks will also be suspended until further notice.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said that the new measures follow-on from the response last week to combat the virus in watermelons in the Northern Territory, with the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments working together with industry in partnership to control the impact of the virus.

"The new measures took effect yesterday. Under the new arrangements, only seeds that have been tested and found free of the virus will be allowed entry into Australia," Minister Joyce said.

"My department is working closely with industry to ensure the new measures will minimise disruption to trade and crop production, while providing a high level of protection for Australian producers. 

"These are temporary measures and will be reviewed as new evidence comes to hand.

"We need to be ever vigilant and this is just another example of biosecurity as a shared responsibility—we are working across government, working with Australian producers and our seed industry, to combat this virus.

"I know this is an extremely challenging time for producers and their families, we are taking action to ensure impacts from the virus are minimised.

"This virus is known to infect a range of cucurbits including cucumbers, melons, watermelons, bitter-gourds, bottle gourds, pumpkins, squash and zucchini. The virus has no effect on human health.

"CGMMV is a difficult virus to manage, so we need to be extra vigilant—we know it can be transmitted in a variety of ways, including through seeds; through contact with infected plant material on machinery, packaging, movements of people, clothing and plant material; and through infected soil and water.

"My department has deployed a rapid response team of specialists from across the country to assist with the incursion—the first time the rapid response function has been called on since the Coalition's $20 million Stronger Biosecurity and Quarantine Initiative was announced in the 2014-15 Budget.

"I encourage any producers that are considering planting cucurbits to make sure they are confident in their seeds. If you are concerned, please contact your local state or territory department of primary industries or agriculture. If you see signs of plant disease in your local area, report your findings to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881," Minister Joyce said.