Protect our vegetable seed supply from toxic fungicide treatments becoming mandatory .

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The hole in our food security is about to get a lot bigger, our seed supply is under threat! 

You may not be aware that over 98% of Australia’s vegetable seed is imported. Australia has virtually no vegetable seed industry of its own, which leaves us very exposed to the future and our ability to quickly adapt to the changing and variable climate. 

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources through the Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON) is changing the import rules in a way that is only visible to ‘stakeholders’. This process is invisible to the wider Australian community. On the surface it appears to accept submissions but it has no accountability to explain why it makes the final choices it does. I believe that as a result of these changes, we are at risk of losing something very precious, our vegetable biodiversity and with it, our future food security.

The general focus of the quarantine revisions taking place is to make Australia ‘safe’ from possible pests and diseases. This is clearly a worthwhile thing to be doing, it is the way it is being done that may lead down a road that many of us find very undesirable.

Last November-December the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources reviewed the Cucurbits (Pumpkins, Squash, Watermelon, Rockmelon, Zucchini, Cucumber), the result was greatly increased testing and therefore increased costs but the real problem was the requirement for a mandatory systemic fungicide treatment on all rockmelon and honeydew seed. This means that other than hybrid seed imported by Monsanto and other multinational seed companies that heirloom open-pollinated melon seeds are no longer being imported. Australia now has all the cultivars that we will probably ever have in the country. Those that are not being saved and sold commercially will gradually disappear over time. Why? Because all Australian-owned small seed businesses pack seed either by hand or using small machinery. This puts the fungicide dust in close proximity to the people handling it daily. This is a completely unacceptable risk to the health of these workers.

Now it is the Brassicas turn and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has already suggested it intends to impose besides a range of tests, a mandatory systemic fungicide treatment on all Brassica seed including Bok Choy, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Mizuna, Radish, Rocket, Tatsoi and Turnip (Mustard and Cress need testing but no mandatory treatment). Read here for info http://www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/risk-analysis/plant/brassicaceous-crop-seeds

The first impact on any organic seed supplier, is that they won’t be able to maintain an organic seed supply to growers, or even maintain their organic certification. Seed suppliers are asking Australian Certified Organic (ACO) to confirm what the impact on the organic growers will be. There is no doubt these changes will massively reduce the range of open pollinated, pesticide-free seed.

In the last decade or so we have seen a vastly increased number of school gardens, community gardens, farmer’s markets, young people getting into farming and growing. An inspiring food revolution with a richness of interesting greens, heirloom and ethnic vegetables has also been taking place.

These regulatory changes will impact all of this positive change and possibly send family-owned seed companies to the wall, leaving our food supply wholly in the hands of just 2 or 3 massive international seed companies. It will greatly increase the cost of seed for seedling growers and small acre farmers. Home gardeners will be left with a greatly reduced range of choices.

 Action is needed

·        The deadline for submissions needs to be extended, as so few people who will be impacted by this change are even aware of it. A change of this magnitude should have involved publicity in nation-wide newspapers to alert the community.

·        An organically acceptable fungicide treatment for seed is needed as an alternative to the mandatory systemic fungicide treatment. This would allow organic growers and organic seed companies to maintain their organic accreditation, protecting the valuable, expanding organic industry in Australia.

The deadline for submissions on these proposed changes is the 19th of April 2018.

Make your submission here, no matter how long or short it will help.

https://haveyoursay.agriculture.gov.au/brassicaceous-crop-seeds



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