NZ First Psa claims refuted

Claims by New Zealand First that Otago University research shows the bacterial disease Psa-V entered New Zealand on imported pollen from China are being challenged.

Otago University associate professor Russell Poulter told SunLive today the research paper just released makes no definite claim as to how Psa likely entered New Zealand.

PSA has infected kiwifruit vines and devastated the industry.

Russell was responding to a statement made by the political party yesterday that stated:

'It is understood that Otago University associate professor Russell Poulter undertook genetic analysis to trace the Psa bacteria which he found had entered New Zealand from China through Kiwi Pollen Ltd.”

While Russell's work did indicate a Chinese origin for the strain of bacteria that has devastated New Zealand kiwifruit, it did not determine how it got to this country.

'The Sapere Report does suggest the KiwiPollen anther import is a plausible route of entry. However, this is their suggestion based on their analysis. The data that indicates a Chinese origin strengthens the Sapere opinion,” he said.

The Sapere Report was commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries to review import requirements and boarder processes following the arrival of Psa-V.

Kiwifruit Vine Health CEO Barry O'Neil says it is his understanding that it is not possible to tell from the studies when Psa-V arrived in New Zealand, or how.

'We understand three groups of researchers, including Professor Poulter, have all concluded that the New Zealand strain of Psa-V originated from China. The studies were reported at the recent Psa-V symposium in Tauranga,” he says.

Seeka Kiwifruit Industries CEO Michael Franks also questions the New Zealand First statement.

'I am not sure that the press release from NZ First is entirely accurate and would prefer to see the published output from Russell Poulter before commenting.

'I understand that there is no publication yet.”

Michael says a number of post-harvest companies including Seeka are talking with their growers about the potential for redress when and if such a report on the source of Psa was published.

In its statement yesterday New Zealand First warned Government cuts to biosecurity would lead to another disaster 'to match the Psa kiwifruit bacteria outbreak which has been identified as reaching the country in a consignment of anthers from Shaanxi Province in China to Kiwi Pollen Ltd in June 2009”.

Winston Peters says Government assurances that it has been objective and rigorous in investigating the biosecurity breach are hollow.

'The Government is going about an inquiry seeking to avoid the truth because that means countless expensive court cases for failing to exercise a duty of care.

'There is no doubt that the Government's lax biosecurity allowed the Psa virus to enter New Zealand undetected from China.

'Psa continues to cause havoc in the kiwifruit industry. Jobs have been lost and massive financial and mental pain inflicted on innocent fruit growers.

'Of real concern are Government cuts to biosecurity which have significantly weakened our border controls. They include the loss of 25 frontline staff since 2008, and $2 million of cuts to biosecurity budgets since 2009.

'It's obvious that the Government hasn't learned anything from the Psa outbreak but New Zealand First is willing to give it a short, sharp lesson.

'Biosecurity needs to be beefed up to prevent the devastation of other important primary industries, not cut back to save a few dollars,” says Winston.

Associate Professor Russell Poulter, Professor Iain Lamont and Dr Margi Butler, all from the University of Otago's Department of Biochemistry, have been working with the kiwifruit industry since the Psa (Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae) bacterium was first detected in a Te Puke orchard in November 2010.

Initially, the technology was not available within New Zealand to carry out sequencing the whole genetic code of the New Zealand Psa strain.

The arrival of new advanced genomics technology – through the government funded initiative, New Zealand Genomics Limited – allowed the Otago biochemists to show the New Zealand strain was significantly different from the Italian strain and, therefore, Italy could not have been the source. Critically, it also put to bed any rumours that New Zealand may have been the source of historical Italian outbreaks.

An article on the university's website says that through a process of elimination, Chinese pollen appears to be the likely source of New Zealand's outbreak.

The Otago biochemists have been able to source some Chinese Psa samples for sequencing and the results indicate that China is the original source of both the Italian and New Zealand outbreaks. More recently, Psa has been confirmed in Chile and work has begun on sequencing these strains. Preliminary data suggests that the Chilean strain also originates from China.

Russell Poulter says the question of whether the New Zealand outbreak may have come via Chile may soon be answered, by using the NZGL sequencing process and comparing the results with the information they have gathered to date.

1 comment

me me me

Posted on 28-02-2013 18:46 | By traceybjammet

well winston will do anything to prove hes a racist and try and get votes from red-necks who dont think through what he is saying. He likes to say what he thinks will get him votes and personally I find the man quite offensive but I guess thats what he wants. to be talked about

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