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Australia, China join on global food security

The Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity (CRCNPB) has developed
memoranda of understanding with two leading Chinese science agencies and a university to
mount joint research programs aimed at curbing losses of grain and other vital crops to
insects, moulds and plant diseases.

“Food security is a top national priority for China – and Prime Minister Julia Gillard has
recently made it one for Australia as well. It is becoming a critical issue around the world.
This is a deal that makes good sense from every perspective,” the CEO of CRCNPB Dr Simon
McKirdy said today.

“When we visited China to sign these agreements, we were told food is in fact the Chinese
government’s number two priority overall. And we saw clear evidence of the massive
reinvestment and technical tooling-up they are now making in food and agricultural science.
Compared with what’s happening in Australia, it is huge – and the new partnership means
we now stand to benefit from their investment in science.”

The CRC signed MOUs with the Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine and the
Chinese Academy of State Administration of Grain and will shortly sign a third with
Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University. These provide primarily for increased joint
research, and greater exchange of scientists and PhD students between the partners.

The initial research focus of the new collaboration will be in diagnostics – timely
identification of plant pests and diseases – and in the management of pests in stored grain.
“Worldwide, humanity loses anywhere between 8 and 20 per cent of its annual grain
harvest to insects and moulds – that’s enough food to feed every hungry person on the
planet,” Dr McKirdy explains.

“Australia is recognised as a world leader in dealing with insect pests in stored grain, and the
Chinese are keen to partner with us in this area.

“Also they really emphasised their concerns about the need to reduce the use of fumigants
and other chemicals used in food production.

“Australia has particular skills in developing clean, green approaches to grain hygiene and
China is keen to find non-chemical solutions to grain pests, so this works well for both of

The benefits from joint research collaboration can potentially flow on to other countries,
helping to improve global food security in general, Dr McKirdy says.

China is a major market for Australian grain and horticultural exports, with potential to grow
significantly, he adds. The biosecurity collaboration will assist this development. “Australia
will benefit by building a greater understanding of the import requirements for Australian
produce (as they apply to plant biosecurity) which will assist our grains and horticulture
industries develop further markets in China.”

More information:
Dr Simon McKirdy, Chief Executive Officer, CRCNPB, 02 6201 2412
Max Knobel, Communications Manager, CRCNPB, 0402 327 087

A printable version of the media release is available here.

Dr Simon McKirdy with the Chinese delegates signing the MOU.

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