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NZPork Considering High Court Judgment

4 May 2012, at 7:44am

NEW ZEALAND - NZPork and its advisors will carefully consider the judgment handed down by Wellington’s High Court, which does not support its challenge of new import health standards.

The pork industry challenged MAF’s process for deciding new standards – which would permit imports of untreated pig meat from countries infected by the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus – in the High Court in August last year.

NZPork Chairman, Ian Carter, said the industry’s concern is that PRRS will enter New Zealand under the less restrictive import health standards, greatly increasing the risk of infected meat being fed to pigs.

Mr Carter said that, despite the Court accepting MAF’s decision-making process, massive gaps in scientific knowledge around PRRS transmission remained.

“MAF’s Independent Review Panel recognised that there are many gaps in scientific knowledge around this issue, including in understanding the exposure pathways of risk material. This means we have no basis to believe that the dangers from importing PRRS-infected meat can be managed,“ says Mr Carter.

“It is crucial that the industry’s concerns are addressed, and NZPork now needs to carefully and fully review the judgment."

“Infected meat fed to pigs is believed to have caused a 2004 PRRS outbreak in South Africa, which resulted in thousands of animals having to be euthanized.“

“A great deal remains unknown about the risks from importing meat infected with PRRS."

Mr Carter said NZPork would welcome the opportunity to work constructively with the Ministry of Primary Industries, to fill the scientific gaps in a way which would implement the recommendations of MAF’s Independent Review Panel, while satisfying the Ministry, industry and New Zealand’s international trade commitments.

“If the existing standards are finalised, it sets a precedent of allowing at-risk products into New Zealand, with sparse knowledge of how the risks would be managed inside our borders."

“Allowing imports of diseased meat could put our broader primary industry at risk. It would be taking a gamble that our farmers cannot afford to lose. Biosecurity is key to New Zealand’s economic security, and we risk it at our peril," says Mr Carter.

Ministry of Primary Industries Director-General Wayne McNee says the decision endorses MPI’s role as an independent, objective science and evidence-based regulator.

“It is MPI’s role to carefully consider the biosecurity risks and all available science before making a decision. The Court’s decision reconfirms MPI as the statutory body responsible for making such determinations and endorses the process we followed to reach that decision.“

“It is the Director-General who must ultimately make the decisions under the Biosecurity Act. I did so having taken into account the findings and recommendations of the Independent Review Panel,“ Mr McNee says.

“MPI’s primary concern when developing import health standards is ensuring the risk of diseases – such as PRRS – establishing in New Zealand is effectively managed. Clearly MPI, NZPork and all pig farmers share that objective, given the impact the disease would have if it arrived in New Zealand. While the new import health standards are less restrictive than previous standards, they are much more restrictive than the standards in place prior to 2001. Pre-2001, raw pork was imported with no restrictions for over 10 years, and no outbreaks of PRRS occurred."

The Pork Industry is keen to work with the Ministry of Primary industries to keep New Zealand safe from unwanted pests and diseases concluded Mr Carter.