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AANZFTA Diagnostic and Biosecurity Security Specialists Meet in Thailand

28 August 2019

Bangkok, 20-21 August 2019 – Over forty representatives from all ten ASEAN Member States (AMS), Australia and New Zealand gathered in Bangkok for the 2nd ASEAN Diagnosticians Forum to review progress in enhancing diagnostic capacity in AMS as well as share experiences and information on technical development in plant pest diagnostics and quarantine measures in the ASEAN region. Participating in this Forum were diagnostic specialists from ASEAN National Plant Protection Organisations, managers of plant health and quarantine teams, university professors, biosecurity specialists from the Australian Department of Agriculture and New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries.

The diagnostic of plant pests is a vital function of plant protection agencies in ASEAN and around the world—supporting operational quarantine, production agriculture, research and responses to incursions by new pests as well as access to new markets for agricultural products. Director-General of the Thai Department of Agriculture, Dr Surmsuk Salakpetch, in her welcome remarks, spotlighted the trade opportunities among ASEAN Member States, Australia and New Zealand, and the need for correct pest identification to ensure plant protection, sound biosecurity, hence, trade growth. Dr Surmsuk noted that “while the traditional method of identification using morphology is accurate, fast and reliable for some plant pests and diseases, molecular methods or other technologies are essential for other pests.”

The participants of the Forum were enthusiastic over the opportunity to drive diagnostic proficiency and share information on new technologies and developments, including Next Generation Sequencing, LAMP, a technology for rapid identification of pests using DNA fingerprints, and biosensors. Presentations by representatives from Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand on nematode pests and high-tech imaging of weed seeds were highlights.

Participants also shared fresh information on the spread, impacts and control of two of new pests found in the region: Fall armyworm which can devastate corn and Panama disease of bananas which is caused by the pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense Tropical Race 4. Diagnosticians thus play a key role in monitoring the rapidly-changing distribution of these pests and supporting effective methods to limit losses to farmers and trade.

The 2nd ASEAN Diagnosticians Forum is part of the ASEAN Regional Diagnostic Network Project supported by the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) Economic Cooperation Support Programme (AECSP). Implemented since 2010, the Project has implemented multiple capacity development activities aimed at establishing and strengthening an ASEAN-wide cooperative system for delivering credible, plant pest diagnostic services, contributing to the removal of unwarranted phytosanitary impediments to trade in the AANZFTA region.

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