Quarantine fears deepened by EI

By BELINDA SCOTT

LONG term concerns over quarantine have deepened with the outbreak of Equine Influenza in NSW, farming leaders said yesterday.

The President of the NSW Farmers Association, Jock Laurie and the organisation's CEO, Shaughn Morgan, were in Coffs Harbour yesterday for a regional meeting of their members in NSWFA Area 13, the region between Bulahdelah, Grafton and Walcha.

"Our industry currently does not have the confidence we would like to have in the system as it currently stands," Mr Laurie said.

The horse flu virus escaped from a quarantine station at Eastern Creek in August and has so far infected horses on almost 5000 properties.

The outbreak has already cost hundreds of millions of dollars in control and treatment and shown gaps in the animal health control network.

"Our concern has always been to do everything we possibly can to keep diseases out," Mr Laurie said.

"Our policy in the last couple of years has been for the Federal Government to undertake a broad- wide-ranging inquiry into biosecurity and the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service."

There has been increasing concern from farmers in recent years that the integrity ofAQIS is being compromised by trade considerations and special interests.

But yesterday farmers had a lot more on their minds than horse flu and border security.

They came from all corner of the vast Area 13 to thrash out some of their concerns.

Mr Laurie said issues related to local environment plans and the right to farm were among those raised yesterday.

Among them was Glenreagh beef farmer Ted Clarke, the Secretary of the Grafton branch of the NSWFA, who said he welcomed the opportunity to raise issues which did not always agree with stated Association policy.

And among these was the vexed question of genetically modified organisms.

With the current debate on whether to lift the ban on GMO grains, the issue is an important one for North Coast farmers because of its significance for grain-fed beef in feedlots and the implications for GMOs entering the food chain.



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