Covid-19 has shown it's time for a holistic approach to biosecurity, Distinguished Professor Philip Hulme says.
"The world is witnessing a global rise in the number of emerging alien species, including insect pests, noxious weeds as well as diseases of plants, animals and humans," biosecurity expert Hulme said.
There was no effective international regulation that addressed these threats, and as a result, these species posed a significant challenge to biosecurity interventions worldwide, Hulme said.
In a new paper in the journal BioScience Hulme discusses the challenges that arise from a "piecemeal" approach to biosecurity and outlined key steps to remedy the situation.
He called for One Biosecurity, a concept that pulled together all the different threads of biosecurity into a policy-relevant implementation plan.
This new approach would integrate threats to human, animal, plant and environmental health, while recognising that disease or invasions in one sector often spilled over into the others, Hulme said.
The factors driving pandemics that threatened human, animal, plant, or environmental health shared many parallels. These included climate change, increasing intensification of agriculture, trade and human migration, greater urbanisation and a loss of specialist expertise, Hulme said.
It was important to understand the pandemic threat of invasive species, rather than just the national threat, Hulme said.
It was also time for the global biosecurity system to shift away from protecting individual countries from invasive alien species, and towards preventing the deliberate or accidental export of emerging threats from their country of origin, Hulme said.
There were three inter-related initiatives that "appeared essential" to deal with pandemic risks from biological invasions, Hulme said.
• An improved approach to risk assessment that looked beyond national borders, toward global pandemic risk.
• A stronger regulatory instrument to address biosecurity threats at a worldwide scale.
• The establishment of an overarching organisation responsible for international biosecurity governance.
However, New Zealand didn't have to wait for global agreement to implement a more holistic biosecurity system nationally, Hulme said.
"In the absence of a multilateral support, nation states such as New Zealand and Australia that already have strong biosecurity regulations could lead the way in developing national One Biosecurity frameworks which, if successful, could catalyse other nations to follow suit."
"Time will tell how feasible these options might be, but hopefully it will not take another global pandemic for the logic of One Biosecurity to be realised."
• Read "Advancing One Biosecurity to Address the Pandemic Risks of Biological Invasions" by Distinguished Professor Philip Hulme in BioScience here.