Jane Smith caused a stir earlier this week when she suggested New Zealand could be at risk from Foot and Mouth disease due to poor biosecurity around the importation of sheep semen and embryos.

The high profile sheep and beef farmer spoke to The Country's Jamie Mackay, alleging that New Zealand's sheep semen import regulations have slipped below international standards.

Listen to Jane Smith's interview Biosecurity concerns over sheep semen imports

Today the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) released a statement refuting these claims saying it is confident of the measures in place to prevent the importation of sheep semen with Foot and Mouth disease (FMD).

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MPI's Director of Animal Health and Welfare, Chris Rodwell says it is important to note that none of the countries New Zealand imports sheep semen from have FMD.

Dr Jock Allison agrees with Rodwell, saying "you can't really import Foot and Mouth on anything from a Foot and Mouth-free country."

A pioneer of importing sheep genetics, Allison told The Country he thinks Smith is "having a severe crack at MPI" by saying that "they've lowered their standards."

Listen to Dr Jock Allison's interview on The Country below:

MPI's statement goes on to say it takes biosecurity extremely seriously and its Import Health Standards (IHS) for sheep semen are based on, or exceed top international standards.

Read the rest of MPI Director of Animal Health and Welfare, Chris Rodwell's statement below:

In 2015, a new Import Health Standard for the importation of sheep semen came into effect. This was in response to an industry need for an improvement in sheep genetics in New Zealand.

The new IHS was widely consulted on and developed with input from industry to ensure the most appropriate IHS was developed. In addition, MPI undertook a rigorous risk analysis and found the risks of introduction of diseases via germplasm could be appropriately managed.

The only country that disagreed was Australia, who subsequently imposed import restrictions on ovine germplasm from New Zealand. This was due to perceptions around the risk of spreading scrapie, not FMD. We have presented Australia with scientific evidence to reduce their concerns, however the restrictions remain in place.

Furthermore, there is no increased risk from pelletised semen. Pellet form semen has been imported and used in New Zealand for decades.

In 2013, MPI conducted a risk assessment for pelletised sheep semen. It concluded the risk was appropriately managed by the requirements of the Import Health Standard.

We have listened to the concerns of the farming sector regarding pelletised sheep semen. As a result, we're planning additional inspections of consignments to ensure that certification, documentation and packaging meet the Import Health Standard.