Biosecurity Research Articles

Plant biosecurity policy-making modelled on the human immune system: What would it look like?

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Publication Date


Journal Title

Environmental Science and Policy


Print: 1462-9011 Electronic: 1873-6416


Agricultural Economics | Biosecurity


This paper takes inspiration from the field of bio-mimicry to suggest what a plant biosecurity system might look like if it was modelled on the human immune system. We suggest structural and institutional changes to current biosecurity systems that would facilitate adaptive preparation and response policies, focusing particularly on the Australian plant biosecurity system. By improving information exchanges, interpretation and managing overlapping complementary response capabilities of this system, novel policies emerge that increase resilience to harmful weeds, pests and diseases. This is achieved by adding an element of flexibility in invasion response to cope with different circumstances and contexts, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. While we find bio-mimicry to be a potentially useful system design tool, there are key differences between the immune and biosecurity systems that the analogy makes clear. Perhaps the most important of these stems from the inability of immune systems to imagine future threats.



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