Australia’s organics industry doubtful of proposed mandatory fungicide treatments

Discussion has been fervent in Australia’s organics industry after the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) proposed mandatory fungicide treatment for certain imported crop seeds.

In “Draft review of import conditions for brassicaceous crop seeds for sowing into Australia,” DAWR says that its proposal would minimize the risk of introducing foreign plant pathogens to the country.

Affected seeds would include those for broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, turnips, bok choy, radishes and brussels sprouts, among others. (Specifically, the requirements target crops from the orders Brassica oleracea , B. rapa, Eruca vesicaria and Raphanus sativus.) Mandatory fungicide treatments have already been imposed on some melons.

The proposal also suggests that seed lots treated outside of Australia should attain official government endorsements indicating their phytosanitation (meaning that they’ve taken proper steps to prevent the spread of plant diseases to Australian import standards). The proposed measures would come on top of already existed requirements for all imported seeds meant for sowing.

Australian Certified Organic (ACO), the largest organic certifying group in the country, says the move would drastically reduce the organic seed supply, which would in turn hurt jobs, growth and investment in the organic industry.

The group doesn’t give the organic label to produce grown from chemically treated seeds, meaning that organic producers (like farmers market growers, home and community gardeners, and small seed suppliers) would need to rely on domestically-sourced seeds. This greatly reduces the crop options available to them, which could hurt business.

ACO suggests relying on alternative biosecurity measures that don’t use chemicals, like seed testing, bio-pesticides and hot water soaks, in addition to practices such as crop rotation, composting and companion planting.

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