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New Zealand's strict biosecurity controls do not prevent entry of fruit flies

Staff Writer |
The first fruit fly from Queensland appeared in a suburban garden in Auckland, New Zealand, on February 14. The second, was found a week later in the south of the city.

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They generated so much commotion and preoccupation that the minister of Biosecurity of the country was forced to interrupt a visit to the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to confront the situation.

Despite there being only two insects, they have the potential to put at risk the country's multibillion horticultural industry, whose products are exported to more than 120 countries (kiwi exports, for example, generate profits of more than US $ 1 billion per year).

The fruit fly was key to five researches that won the Nobel Prize in Medicine but the Queensland fruit fly can ruin a variety of crops, leaving them inedible.

According to local radio station RNZ, 80% of fruit and vegetable crops are vulnerable to attack by the Queensland fruit fly.

On the other hand, if an outbreak occurs, this could result in the imposition of restrictions on exports, which would have a severe economic impact.

In any case, the Ministry of Primary Industries clarified that at the moment there is no outbreak of fruit flies or evidence that a population of these insects is brewing.

To deal with the threat, the authorities deployed 2,000 fly traps,

More than 80 people from biosecurity are working in the affected areas, and authorities have translated information into a series of local languages to warn producers about the situation and to let them know what to do if they sight a fly.

They have also established controlled areas, where movements of fruits and vegetables are restricted.

According to the Minister of Biosafety, Damien O'Connor, they have a very fine-tuned mechanism to eliminate fruit flies. "This has happened to us several times and on each occasion we have successfully freed ourselves from this plague," the official said.

Authorities are investigating how the flies entered the country despite its strict biosecurity controls.

This insect, however, is difficult to stop at the border because it can enter the country in egg form or as a small larvae hidden inside the fruit, states New Zealand's biosecurity website.

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