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The Significance of Biosecurity in Agriculture

Discuss about the Plant Biosecurity and International Trade.

Plant security refers to a set of measures that are formulated with the aim of protecting crops from plant pests and other plant pathogens. The concept of plant security has emerged as an essential global issue. This can be attributed to the fact that plant pathogens and diseases are found to affect food trade, safety, market development, and market access. This directly creates an impact on the sustainability and profitability of industries that are based on plant products (Head, Atchison & Phillips, 2015). An increase in the number of pests would pose immediate threats on the plant industries and would impact the reputation of all countries that focus on production of quality plant products. Trade in crops and other plant products have created several benefits. Furthermore, the growth in domestic and international trade involving plant products have driven the need to maintain an environmental and agricultural integrity in the world. Management practices include several activities that are related to quarantine, risk analysis and surveillance for preventing the entry of exotic microorganisms that might create negative impacts on trade (Smart & Smart, 2012). This literature review will encompass critical discussions on scholarly papers that include current knowledge and substantive findings on plant biosecurity and international trade.

The term ‘biosecurity’ encompasses an integrated and strategic approach, which often pertains to the regulatory frameworks and policies enforced by a government. This generally involves activities and instruments that have been adopted for managing and analyzing major threats or risks that exist in the sectors of animal and plant life, and food safety, in addition to the associated environmental risks (Jurdak et al., 2015). Thus, the holistic concept of biosecurity can be considered of direct relevance to improve agricultural sustainability, maintain food safety, and protect the environment and biodiversity. Thus, the reason behind giving importance to biosecurity is the fact that focuses on measures that effectively reduce the risks of infectious disease transmission, in invasive alien species, genetically modified organisms, and crops and livestock. Initially biosecurity issues were not given their due importance in the field of international security or international relations (Sayers et al., 2013). However, recent trends have resulted in their inclusion in discussions that related to security of plant and animal species. International standards have recognized biosecurity as an essential concept, following the occurrence of several epidemics that increased health security awareness. Thus, a literature review will provide a comprehensive assessment on the potential and actual risks of biosecurity of plant pathogens and pests that are naturally dispersed.

Biosecurity Framework: An Integrated and Strategic Approach

A well constructed search strategy forms the basis of a literature review and helps in retrieving majority of studies that will be assessed based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The objective of the search strategy was identification of all published articles related to plant biosecurity and international trade with the use of electronic databases namely, CINAHL and PubMed. The online databases were searched for appropriate articles with the use of several key words, such as, “global”, “international”, “plant”, “crops”, “biosecurity”, “policy”, “invasion”, “quarantine”, “exotic”, “e-commerce”, “threat”, and “genetic”. Boolean operators in the form of simple words such as, AND, OR and NOT were used in individually or in combination for eliminating inappropriate hits, while extracting relevant articles. Using the term AND helped in narrowing down the results. It facilitated retrieval of search results that contained both the search terms such as biosecurity ‘AND’ trade. While the term OR retrieve search results that contained either of the keywords such as, global ‘OR’ international, ‘NOT’ excluded articles that did not contain the key words (McGowan et al., 2016). The inclusion criteria for the literature review are given below:

  • Articles that focused on international agriculture-food policies
  • Articles that contained information on political economy of food security
  • Articles that discussed major implications for food security and trade
  • Articles published on or after 2012

The exclusion criteria for the literature review are given below:

  • Manuscripts
  • Unpublished articles
  • Abstracts
  • Articles published prior to 2012
  • Articles that illustrated importance of animal security in the context of global trade

Policy-making is imperative to adoption of a ‘technocratic’ or evidence-based approach, which is adopted by the governments with the aim of favoring scientific knowledge over all other kinds of knowledge. It is considered the duty of all researchers to ascertain the associated risks and incorporate recommendations in the context of biosecurity. An article presented a highly straightforward methodology that addressed the concerns of government agencies in regards to effective communication strategies that need to be adopted for maintaining biosecurity, in the presence of diverse stakeholders (Gilmour, Beilin, & Sysak, 2011). The article accurately presented a case study among peri?urban landholders, living in an area and engaged stakeholders in establishing their influence in plant and animal diseases. The study was successful in establishing the fact that better scientific approaches should be adopted by the government in order to facilitate better communication about the potential risks to biosecurity. The article was therefore able to illustrate the importance of the attitude and practice of the major stakeholders in managing biosecurity risks that pose immediate threats. Another article demonstrated the findings of a study that had been conducted on the governance of food and seed security with a focus on participatory plant breeding. This form of plant breeding refers to the collaboration between farmers, plant breeders, processors, marketers, policy makers, and consumers. The article illustrated importance of effective interaction between the governance regimes of Syria that focus on regulation of the rights related to control and access of genetic resources at a national and international level (Galié, 2013). Findings suggested that equal access to the plant resources, regardless of gender differences could greatly contribute to bringing about enhancements of the food security in small scale farming sectors. Furthermore, evidences were also established for creating provisions in the governance that would empower women farmers and protect their rights in relation to increasing their access to the resources and sharing the direct benefits of plant genetic resources.

Search Strategy

Similar findings were presented by another article that successfully elaborated on the different challenges faced by the Australian governance while implementing centralized approaches for biosecurity governance. Subsidies that exist for biosecurity-related failures in the market, existing taxes, and asymmetry in information make it difficult for ascertaining a financial structure that would help suppliers bear costs related to domestic contamination risks (Cook et al., 2010). Moreover, the article indicated that most biosecurity policies implemented by the government aimed to increase or maximize the benefits over associated costs for protecting the plant and food resources. The findings were imperative in suggesting adoptive measures that could be implemented at the national levels for shaping defence mechanism of invasive species. Stakeholder engagement and policy making have also been considered by other articles that intended to perceive the attitude of stakeholders with the aim of understanding the risks to biosecurity. It stated that governance should consider relationship between the state and the civil society in order to control and manage the natural environment (Reed & Curzon, 2015). It also accurately identified the fact that governance can get formalized in biosecurity strategies that have the primary objective of setting specific goals and recognizing activities related to border quarantine, surveillance and importing risk assessments. Thus, the authors were able to establish the fact that in addition to bringing about changes in existing policies related to protection of plant resources, due attention must also be given to understand the opinions of specific group of individuals who are greatly affected by food security challenges. Furthermore, the article also focused on three governance models that must be adopted by the government for managing risks to biosecurity, namely, technocratic model, decisionistic model, and transparent governance model.

The role of the state in confirming to international laws and rules for formulating and undertaking appropriate risk assessments results in conditions that maintain safety of genetically modified crops. This was illustrated by an article that also emphasized on the fact that policy makers are often influenced by domestic political pressures. Importance of biosecurity measures in incorporating biotechnology concerns were also appropriately demonstrated that helped in provided a clear illustration of the challenges that are faced while harmonizing global standards and rules (Dibden, Higgins & Cocklin, 2011).

A comparison of perspectives from the United Kingdom and Australia regarding governance of biosecurity in neoliberal world showed that serious threats are posed by global trade markets towards biosecurity, which in turn is influenced by introduction of invasive diseases and pests. These have been found to create adverse impacts on the health of animals and plant, thereby affecting the quality of biodiversity and agricultural goods. The article accurately depicted the differences in biosecurity governance existing in the UK that illustrated the fact that the UK government gives greater recognition to threats that pests and invasive pathogens create to the biodiversity, landscape, and ecosystem services. The concept of plant security was found to attract low funding levels, when compared to animal diseases and pests (Maye et al., 2012). Furthermore, an increase in awareness was also observed in the UK, on the immediate threats that are posed by invasive pathogens. The article indicated that high-profile and recent outbreaks of diseases play a major role in shaping the biosecurity governance of the UK. On the other hand, the comparison showed that the approach adopted by the Australian government was influenced by historical concerns related to adoption of strict quarantine approaches. Furthermore, the article also illustrated the role of the New Zealand government in imposing restrictions on import of apples due to fire blight infection of trees. This made the government focus more on enforcing standard procedures, based on scientific principles to assess the risks of pests and other diseases.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

Governance of modern biotechnologies with the aim of maintaining global food security was explained by another article. The article focused on the need for all nations to utilise science and technology that could contribute to food security (Tait & Barker, 2011). Furthermore, the article also accurately defined that the technologies employed in this context should be effective and safe, following which they will be accepted by the society with the aim of balancing the values and interests of the key stakeholders. The article was also accurate in citing about the importance of new genetically modified crops in the field of agriculture. The role of the government in acknowledging the role of genetically selected plant varieties in plant security was correlated with the fact that such crops were able to confer resistance towards insects or pesticides, thereby reducing the need of pesticide use, and enhancing food security.

Role of organic and genetically modified crops in food security was evaluated by another literature that aimed to assess the advantages and disadvantages of GMO in eliminating threats to biosecurity. The advantages were accurately presented by the article by the fact that GMO hold a potential promise in maintaining food security for small-scale agriculture based nations. The potential advantages of GMO that were recognized imperative for maintain plant security was correlated with extended shelf-life, improved food quality and safe food security (Azadi & Ho, 2010). Globalisation and trade liberalization were identified to hold threats to biosecurity in the Southern countries. However, the article also identified the major disadvantages of GM crops such as, rapid proliferation and increase in land area. Thus, some of the potential threats to biosecurity were recognized in the form of allergenicity, carcinogenicity, toxicity and altered quality of nutrition. This made the authors accurately recognize the role of organic farming in plant security due to its avoidance of expensive chemical inputs, and the fact that it promotes biodiversity. This environmental friendly system was therefore considered as a best approach to protect plants from attack by harmful pests and other pathogens. Moreover, the article also accurately depicted the fact that organic foods would be able to secure food supply in countries that have greater knowledge of proper farming techniques.

Similar findings were reported by another article that demonstrated the role of agro-ecological research in addressing issues pertaining to food security. The article demonstrated that integrated pest management helps in reducing use of pesticide, thereby increasing the yield of most crops. The article demonstrated the role of ecological engineering based on a landscape scale, which in conjunction with genetic improvement practices could bring about development of new crop varieties (Birch, Begg & Squire, 2011). Further role of ecological engineering in preventing threats to security of plant products were illustrated by evidences related to effect of environmental stressors and plant diseases on global agricultural production. The article identified the importance of plant breeding approaches for improving disease and pest resistance, which in turn would enhance biosecurity. Crop protection failure and major selection pressure were associated with use of just disease- or pest-resistant crops. Furthermore, the study also defined a novel multidisciplinary approach that focused on attracting repellents and pest attractants. The article was also successful in optimizing products for introducing pest-resistant crops and analysing the new policies implemented by government, with the aim of bringing about biocontrol.

Policy Making and Attitude towards Risks

Significant challenges that are associated with mitigating hunger obesity and feeding a growing world have also lead to an increased attention to food security in the domain of practices and policies. The politics of international food policy were illustrated by an article that indicated the fact that middle income countries are showing an increased interest in securing more land for cultivation, which in turn, will improve processing and distribution of agricultural food products. Food sovereignty discourse focuses on removal of agriculture from international trade and often rejects agricultural biotechnology in order to pray for food production at a localised level. The article considered food sovereignty as a form of recasting democracy that was centred on agri-food politics (Lee, 2013). Furthermore, it also illustrated the principal elements that are involved in trade oriented food security such as liberalism, industrial or productivists, private property rights and agreement on trade related aspects of agricultural and intellectual property rights. Hence the importance of global agri-food trade policies was recognised by emphasising on its origin in July 1944, which has its foundations in the International Monetary Fund and International Trade Organisation. The article also recognised the right to food sovereignty as an essential political concept that often acts as a response to inclusion of agriculture in trading system all around the world. Thus, food sovereignty was defined as the right that each nation holds to develop and maintain its capacity for producing basic food, while respecting productive and cultural diversity.

Another article critiqued the political economy of food security that is promoted by trade conducted by organisations such as the World Bank, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Trade Organisation. The article suggested that food security is best characterized as combined and uneven dependency, in case of import of basic foods. It also emphasized on recent trends that show an increase in home organising patterns of food consumption all around the world, with a special focus on large agri-business based multinational corporations that act as dominant economics sectors in governing global food production, and their dissemination. The article also illustrated the importance of transgenic crops that are usually designed to bring about resistance to action of herbicide and pesticides (Otero, Pechlaner & Gürcan, 2013). It elaborated on food security and trade that existed during the period post-World War II and suggested that agricultural in most countries at that time primarily focused on self sufficiency for the domestic market. However the article also illustrated the role of the United States in promoting free trade of plant food products all around the world, in the agricultural sector. The major challenges associated with an empirical assessment of food security code are related with definition of food security that focuses more on individual, rather than nations. Thus, the article was accurate in assuming that a loss of self sufficiency often results in a condition that leads to complete loss of food security of a particular country. This subsequently results in fluctuations in food prices around the world.

Challenges in Biosecurity Governance

The role of international trade in management of food security risks were also examined by another article that distinguished between two kinds of risks namely occurrence of extreme climatic events, and risks caused by changes in average precipitation and temperature of the atmosphere. The article stated that change in climate will function by reshaping international food system, thereby resulting in an increase in frequency, and intensity of extreme climatic events. These were expected to result in more volatility of inter annual food supply. The article also elaborated on the impact of expected food prices on individuals and countries that are vulnerable to hunger and poverty (Baldos & Hertel, 2015). Alterations in precipitation trends and temperatures were also found to bring about a change in food production all around the world, which could lead to dampening of agricultural productivity in regions with increase prevalence of hunger. Thus, the article was accurate in identifying international trade as an essential opportunity that could manage these risks by improving integration across all the market and removing rate distortion. It suggested that international trade will be able to use new crop yield projections under environmental changes that will contribute to reducing vulnerability due to long term impacts of food security.


To conclude, it can be suggested that plant security and biosecurity is a multifaceted concept. While on one hand it encompasses the availability of adequate amount of supply at a national and global level, on the other hand it refers to the concerns related with appropriate nutrition, which affects health and wellbeing of all people. Several initiatives have been taken by governments of all states and nations to improve plant security. Most of such initiatives have evaluated two different aspects of the security, namely, distribution and availability, which helps in predicting trends of the potential risks. Furthermore, world food price level and stability in food prices also act as essential indicators in the world market that have been found to affect availability to finance all forms of import, and make changes in import bill. An analysis of the aforementioned literature helps in drawing a conclusion that global trade contribute to a sustainable and prosperous nation that provides equal opportunities for all. Opportunities are also provided for invasive organisms that are found to undermine prosperity and sustainability of a nation. Although there is an inherent conflict between biosecurity and international free trade, these biosecurity policies can be compromised, with regards to trade priority in order to allow import of various agricultural products. Thus, it can be stated that international trade helps in reducing plant and food in security by forming connections between regions that have limited agricultural potential, to larger population that are found to have comparative advantages in the agricultural field.

Comparison of Perspectives on Biosecurity Governance


Azadi, H., & Ho, P. (2010). Genetically modified and organic crops in developing countries: A review of options for food security. Biotechnology advances, 28(1), 160-168.

Baldos, U. L. C., & Hertel, T. W. (2015). The role of international trade in managing food security risks from climate change. Food Security, 7(2), 275-290.

Cook, D. C., Liu, S., Murphy, B., & Lonsdale, W. M. (2010). Adaptive approaches to biosecurity governance. Risk Analysis, 30(9), 1303-1314.

Dibden, J., Higgins, V., & Cocklin, C. (2011). Harmonising the governance of farming risks: agricultural biosecurity and biotechnology in Australia. Australian Geographer, 42(2), 105-122.

Birch, A. N., Begg, G. S., & Squire, G. R. (2011). How agro-ecological research helps to address food security issues under new IPM and pesticide reduction policies for global crop production systems. Journal of Experimental Botany, 62(10), 3251-3261.

Galié, A. (2013, February). Governance of seed and food security through participatory plant breeding: Empirical evidence and gender analysis from Syria. Natural Resources Forum, 37(1), pp. 31-42.

Gilmour, J., Beilin, R., & Sysak, T. (2011). Biosecurity risk and peri?urban landholders–using a stakeholder consultative approach to build a risk communication strategy. Journal of Risk Research, 14(3), 281-295.

Head, L., Atchison, J., & Phillips, C. (2015). The distinctive capacities of plants: re?thinking difference via invasive species. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 40(3), 399-413.

Jurdak, R., Elfes, A., Kusy, B., Tews, A., Hu, W., Hernandez, E., ... & Sikka, P. (2015). Autonomous surveillance for biosecurity. Trends in biotechnology, 33(4), 201-207.

Lee, R. P. (2013). The politics of international agri-food policy: discourses of trade-oriented food security and food sovereignty. Environmental Politics, 22(2), 216-234.

Maye, D., Dibden, J., Higgins, V., & Potter, C. (2012). Governing biosecurity in a neoliberal world: comparative perspectives from Australia and the United Kingdom. Environment and Planning A, 44(1), 150-168.

McGowan, J., Sampson, M., Salzwedel, D. M., Cogo, E., Foerster, V., & Lefebvre, C. (2016). PRESS peer review of electronic search strategies: 2015 guideline statement. Journal of clinical epidemiology, 75, 40-46.

Otero, G., Pechlaner, G., & Gürcan, E. C. (2013). The political economy of “food security” and trade: Uneven and combined dependency. Rural Sociology, 78(3), 263-289.

Reed, M. S., & Curzon, R. (2015). Stakeholder mapping for the governance of biosecurity: a literature review. Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences, 12(1), 15-38.

Sayers, R. G., Sayers, G. P., Mee, J. F., Good, M., Bermingham, M. L., Grant, J., & Dillon, P. G. (2013). Implementing biosecurity measures on dairy farms in Ireland. The Veterinary Journal, 197(2), 259-267.

Smart, A., & Smart, J. (2012). Biosecurity, quarantine and life across the border. A Companion to Border Studies, 26, 354.

Tait, J., & Barker, G. (2011). Global food security and the governance of modern biotechnologies: Science & Society Series on Food and Science. EMBO reports, 12(8), 763-768.

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