Firstly, I work for the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) and 2 of my responsibilities are inspecting live plant material and seeds when they enter the country through the International Mail system.
Aaron, the information you recieved from the woman you spoke to is completely incorrect! The requirements for seed to enter the country are-
1. that the seed must be labelled with a botanical name.
2. that the seed is free from any contamination (ie- seed capsules, flower parts, other seeds, etc) or insect infestation.
You do not need to be a commercial entity and the seeds do not need to be commercially packaged.
You can receive seed from anybody anywhere in the world as long as they meet the above requirements.
Everyday (actually I'm inspecting a packet of seeds at the moment!) I inspect and release numerous packages containing seed that come from everyday collectors and none are commercially packaged. I often have the chance to inspect seeds addressed to myself!
The only exceptions to this in the world of CPs is all Genlisea and Ibicella species as well as a few aquatic Utricularia species which are prohibited.
I'm not sure who you spoke to, but they obviously have no idea what they are talking about.
The restrictions on live plant material or hardened plants are in place for a very good reason. We take no risks in relation to the introduction of live plants. As you are probably aware, Australia is currently free from many of the pests and diseases that are present overseas and we aim to ensure that this remains the case.
To explain our procedures and the reasons for them I'll detail what these procedues are and why they are in place.
-An import permit is required at a cost of AU$100 and can cover a period of up to 2 years. In this period you can import as many consignments of Nepenthes as you wish. The aim of the permit is to make sure that importers follow the correct procedures and the plants arrive in the correct condition- among other things.
-There is a charge for the inspection of the material when it arrives to ensure that there is no obvious insect infestation or disease symptoms. We also check to make sure that all of the import conditions have been met (ie- plants are free from soil and other materials).(AU$35.50 per 15 minutes)
-Another charge for the time taken to examine and verify all of the documentation such as phytosanitary certificates and the import permit itself. (AU$21.00)
-The Nepenthes will then be transferred to the post-entry Quarantine facility for a period of contained growth and treatment. This is to ensure that any pests or diseases that were not originally apparent can be detected should they turn up at a later date. (costs vary depending upon the number of plants in the consignment. Usually around AU$15 per plant (depending on pot size) for the entire period but decreases the more plants you import)
-Upon arrival the plants are treated with a methyl bromide fumigant to kill off any insects that may be present. (AU$35.50)
-A nemotocide treatment follows to ensure that any nematodes present in the roots or stems are killed. These can be potentially devastating to various crops such as potatoes. (AU$35.50 charge for AQIS supervision while the importer carries out the nematocide dipping)
-Approximately half way through the post-entry growth period (usually 2 months in from a 4 month total) a Quarantine Officer performs a check to determine if any disease symptoms have emerged. (AU$35.50)
If everything is OK after all of this the plants can be released.
The costs can be high if you are only importing a couple of plants but get significantly cheaper per plant the more you import.
So, while the regulations are strict, they have been created for a good reason and I will argue your opinion that they are exagerrated.
(Hope that didn't sound terse or condescending, that definitely wasn't my aim. Just trying to inform and help [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif[/img] )
I had a feeling the info I was given was a bit off par, as the AQIS web site basically states it about as clearly as you did. Still, I was not going to question her.
Thanks for all that info as well. Great stuff and nice to have some clarity with regards to the process our local suppliers must go through at times. Kind of makes you realise why prices of some plants we get seem much higher than elsewhere in the world. Especially when you consider the cost and effort that goes to getting them here.
Why are Genlisea and Ibicella prohibited in Australia? Are these plants desired the most by people that are into CPs over there because of they are illegal? Just curious
Unfortunately Genlisea is considered to be a genus that could potentially become an invasive wetland plant- strange but true!!. Not one of the restrictions that I agree with.
Ibicella is already known to be an invasive species in many of the dry inland areas where it infests some areas of cropland as well as affixing itself to livestock, often causing injury to the legs of sheep in particular.
Plants of Genlisea do occur in many collections here. They have gotten in the country over the years through the mail system where they can be very hard to detect on the X-ray machines or by sniffer dogs.
Noone I know grows Ibicella, not a particularly attractive plant as far as I am concerned. They are easy to find growing if you know where to look though.
I would like to reply to your statement in a scientific manner. i am a molecular biologist with specialty in infectious diseases and cancer. I am now moving to Plant biology (so i can study the relationships between species of cp's). I am also very familiar with epidemics, pathogenic diseases, spores etc. etc.
By the way, i respect very much your job, because i know that you are trying to protect the environment as much as you can. However, i am entitled to my opinion. Although Quarantine service in Australia does an excellent job keeping the nasties out of this country, we still get them. If i am not mistaken, there was a virus-infected fish found in a river system in South Australia brought in processed food from overseas. It won't be long before SARS strikes Australia. The policy of keeping the nasties out is just making our native flora and fauna more susceptible to pathogens, because we don't give ourselves a chance to develop resistance or immunity and this also applies to other higher life forms. Just like the fact that many native aborigines died from diseases brought by the white man many years ago, it won't be long until our plants, our animals, even ourselves become infected with new nasties and thus entire populations will be wiped out, just because we have not given ourselves a chance to develop resistance to them. I don't want to sound pessimistic nor i wish for that to happen, but history and epidemiology have taught us some lessons.
Same with the Calisi virus introduced into this country on purpose by CSIRO to wipe out the wild hare populations which was destroying our native habitats. It killed most of them, but resistance was quickly developed in some hares and now the calisi virus is useless to control such hares. Why can't we applied that scientific philosophy to our plants. I am not condoning free entry of anything living into the country, because it'd be disastrous, but perhaps a slow and controlled adaptation to our flora to these nasties.
Quarantine systems work as long as one keeps all our bases covered. But the nasty germs are constantly creating more bases which will be impossible for us to cover them all. Policy of isolation works, but it has its disadvantages.
Obviously my post did not come across as I intended. I very much respect your opinion.
You make some very good points regarding the possibility/probability that pathogens and other pests may/will ultimately enter the country. I will not dispute this as it is just not possible for all pathogenic organisms to be intercepted before entering a country as large as ours. It is impossible to cover all of our bases.
I also see your point in regards to a potential for native species to become more susceptible to pest and disease organisms due to a lack of contact creating a low level of resistance and immunity.
By using an example I may illustrate why I believe the incursion of a pest or disease could create a greater problem than a lack of resistance in a population. As you would be aware there are many hundreds of species of both plant and animal in Australia that have very small populations, many facing extinction. If a disease which affected a vulnerable species were to enter the country it would not need to wipe out the entire population to cause irreparable damage. Even though a certain percentage of the population were resistant and would invariably survive, it is possible that there would be too few remaining to replace the numbers lost.
The example you used about the calici-virus used in an attempt to eradicate the rabbit population is a good example of an animal developing an immunity to a pathogen, but this was amongst a population of hundreds of millions of a non-native animal in virtual plague proportions. Such a problem animal will always have an easier task of surviving and recolonising the country. After all there was originally only around 50 rabbits released into Victoria to create the problem we have at the moment. If a similar disease which affected the endangered WA numbat entered the country it would not need to kill off all of the animals to place the species on the verge of extinction.
The human examples you use are always going to be a problem, but how do we deal with diseases such as SARS, yellow fever, ebola etc? It will be very difficult to control the release of such pathogens. I agree that in the future the lack of resistance will be a major, potentially devastating problem, but what do you do about it in the meantime though? It is very difficult to be able to create a balance between creating a resistance and devastating the human population in the process. Our scientists will have to work on this one.
Although it may seem to be a lost cause, it is extremely important to keep our country free from as many pest organisms as possible for as long as possible. Our international reputation as being a country free from many of the diseases present overseas is worth billions of dollars in exported produce. If a disease such as citrus canker were to enter the country there is potential for the majority of our citrus industry to be decimated.
I also agree with you that it is necessary to gradually introduce a pest or disease organism into the country to begin to create native species which do have a resistance. As you say- it'd be disastrous to allow free entry of any living organism to the country. This is exactly what we are aiming to prevent. I understand that AQIS will never be able to eliminate the risk entirely. Our responsibility is to minimise the risk.
Obviously it is a very complex issue, not something to be taken lightly. Somehow we will need to create a balance in the future. I'm not silly enough to believe that the Australian Quarantine Service will be the saviour of the country but I do believe that the purpose we serve is an important one.
I must say that your post has let me understand what you meant when you used the word 'exaggerated', I was originally unsure how to take the comment. Now that I know the context with which you were using it I can see where you are coming from.
Although I don't usually like to "put my foot" into it like this, I must say that there's a bit of oversimplification here. Introduction of a new organism into an ecosystem is not a simple matter, and the rabbit is a good example of how even a seemingly benign entity can have a dramatic impact on the environment. I do not think that gradually exposing Australia to rabbits to allow the native ecosystem to build up resistance to them would have mitigated the country's rabbit problem one bit, due to the obvious rapidity with which rabbits reproduce. For example, a single pair of rabbits can have 43,000 descendants within three years under favorable conditions, and microorganisms are orders of magnitude more prolific than this!
Originally Posted by [b
Furthermore, akin to Australia's rabbit problem, we have similar examples here in America. Among them are the fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) and kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata). Once these entites have been released, there is no going back unless one can eliminate them all, and that is just not possible in the vast majority of cases.
Of course, it is true that a native ecosystem will acquire "resistance" to these new introductions, but this process will invariably change the ecosystem, (typically in ways that are not generally beneficial to man or some of the other native flora or fauna) and may occur on a geological (rather than human) time scale. And, insofar as I am aware, it is not possible to "innoculate" an ecosystem to provide it resistance to invasive organisms prior to their introduction. Moreover, even if this were possible, for what would one prepare, given that the number of possible invasives is quite large, and that it is essentially impossible to accurately predict, a priori, the impact of each possible species? Again, consider the case of the rabbit, intentionally introduced to Australia by man.
Consequently, while I do think that Australia's importation procedures are elaborate and, (from the standpoint of those who wish to import plants) annoying, nonetheless, I suspect that they are quite well justified and, if anything, insufficient to prevent the introduction of further invasive species or pathogenic organisms.
Don't forget the cane toad, Bufo marinus(I think, off the top of my head).
The possible incursion of pest and weed species as opposed to disease and pathogenic organisms species require separate considerations here.
The Australian environment cannot cope with the introduction of many pest and weed species and has no way of developing an immunity to such organisms as it potentially could with some of the pathogenic organisms. The aim of AQIS is to keep these problem species out of the country at all costs for as long as possible. Some of these could be associated with the importation of live plants, including Nepenthes.
There are countless examples of species which have irreparably damaged many areas and populations of animals and plants in those areas eg- foxes, deer, rabbits, hares, mice, horses, goats, camels, buffalo, cane toads, numerous species of birds and a list of weed plant species longer than my arm.
I can see though that the examples Gus uses are referring to the disease/pathogenic aspect rather than the pest/weed side of things. Both are separate issues.
I agree with Sean, this is not a simple issue and we won't find an answer in the immediate future. All I wish for is for government bodies (in case AQIS) is to start thinking for new strategies on disease containment since these will always evolve and become more contagious and I am afraid that old techniques for disease containment and eradication may render useless in the not so distant future.
I think we should talk about the ramifications of strict quarantine laws. (whether fair or unfair, which i think is a different issue altogether) is that we don't get to have all the beautiful species or those you currently share with the whole world from your website. There are many nep collectors like myself here in Australia who are somehow frustrated because of their inability to get rare nepenthes species. The only solution is for us to find a way out so we can have for example "Nepenthes sp. 12" at more or less the same time it is available in America or Europe. Whether this is achievable or not, it is a different story.
Food for thought