Horticulture welcomes major biocontrol milestone
The New Zealand horticulture industry has welcomed the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) decision allowing the release of a tiny Samurai Wasp into New Zealand, if ever there was an incursion of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).
BMSB Council Chair Alan Pollard applauded the outcome as a major milestone against one of the greatest threats to New Zealand’s horticultural industry and urban communities.
“The industry greatly appreciates the positive decision and acknowledges the consideration given by the EPA to the significant number of submissions made on the application."
”Today we’ve achieved a significant step towards preparing for a major biosecurity risk, which is getting greater by the day, with increasing trade and tourism crossing our borders,” he said.
The Samurai Wasp is the size of a poppy seed and completely harmless to humans and animals except stink bugs. It is a natural enemy of BMSB; the female wasp lays her eggs inside those of the stink bug, killing the nymph in the process. Studies overseas have shown that the wasp can destroy over 70 percent of the eggs in a stink bug egg mass.
“The stink bug could cause hundreds of millions of dollars of losses for our industry, as well as seriously damaging quality of life for all New Zealanders."
“With the heightened awareness of biosecurity risk across New Zealand, our industry is more aware than ever that we cannot afford to be, and never will be, complacent."
“Approving the release of Samurai as a biocontrol is an excellent step but there is more work to do before the wasp is ready to be used as a tool. It’s not the silver bullet and a stink bug incursion would require a multi-faceted approach."
“We’ve seen overseas growers rely on high levels of insecticide as the primary control for BMSB and, while this wasp provides the opportunity to reduce our dependence on chemicals, a full response will require every weapon in our armoury.”
Mr Pollard said the decision was made possible through the collaboration of horticultural industry groups and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), working together under the Government Industry Agreement for readiness and response (GIA). He also acknowledged the science community for its impartial research that resulted in the Council using crucial information to support the application.
Permission to release the wasp will be subject to a number of strict controls that will dictate when, where, and by whom it can be released.
An NZIER report, commissioned by the Samurai Wasp Steering Group, has estimated that gross domestic product would fall by between $1.8 billion and $3.6b by 2038 if BMSB became established. It also estimated the horticulture export value could fall by between $2b and $4.2b.
About the BMSB Council
The BMSB Council is a partnership under GIA between industry and government and is responsible for BMSB readiness and response. The Council consists of member organisations (Horticulture New Zealand, Kiwifruit Vine Health, Ministry for Primary Industries, New Zealand Avocado, New Zealand Apples & Pears, New Zealand Winegrowers, Summerfruit New Zealand, Tomatoes New Zealand, Vegetables New Zealand) and observers (Foundation for Arable Research and New Zealand Plant Producers Inc).
About the Government Industry Agreement (GIA)
GIA operates as a partnership between industry groups and Government to manage pests and diseases that could badly damage New Zealand's primary industries, our economy, and our environment. Under GIA, Signatories share the decision-making responsibilities and costs of preparing for – and responding to – biosecurity incursions. It aims to improve biosecurity outcomes and give everyone the confidence that the best decisions are being made to manage and mitigate biosecurity risks. For more information, visit www.gia.org.nz.