Biosecurity

Updated: 2017-11-18.

Biosecurity is the term for a collection of measures taken to protect people, animals, the local environment, and indigenous species from biological threats, often from abroad.

In the travel industry, biosecurity is one of the main concerns of a country’s border patrol. One might be subjected to biosecurity measures at an airport when traveling internationally, such as when an inspector finds meat products in a luggage and discards it.

The National Academy of Sciences defines biosecurity as “security against the inadvertent, inappropriate, or intentional malicious or malevolent use of potentially dangerous biological agents or biotechnology, including the development, production, stockpiling, or use of biological weapons as well as outbreaks of newly emergent and epidemic disease.”

Travelers can help airport officers (and save time and money) by checking government websites to see which items are banned from entry. For example, Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has some statistics from 2016 which were seized at the border:

  • 41,957 kg of meat, a 13% increase since 2015, and the most common item seized at airports in 2016;
  • 11,579 kg of legumes, a 12% increase since 2015;
  • 7,375 kg seeds, a 28% increase since 2015;
  • 23,296 items of pome fruit (such as apples), a 8% increase since 2015.

Airports’ border security employ different methods to search and identify biosecurity threats and violations. Along with various electronic methods of detection, dogs are often used to sniff biosecurity threats out; beagles are sometimes more popular, as they are smaller and less-menacing (in appearance) to passengers and travelers who may have a fear of larger dogs.

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