Biosecurity, trade liberalisation, and the (anti)politics of risk analysis: the Australia-New Zealand apples dispute

Vaughan Higgins, Jacqui Dibden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Biosecurity represents a rapidly growing area of social science inquiry. At the global scale, biosecurity measures adopted by national governments have often been represented as nontariff trade barriers, yet social scientists have paid little attention to the ways in which biosecurity concerns are rendered (at least ostensibly) compatible with trade liberalisation. We use Barry's notion of the 'antipolitical economy' to explore how techniques used to frame biosecurity risk are linked to the politics of trade liberalisation. Drawing upon a case study of the long-running dispute concerning access by New Zealand apples to the Australian market, we highlight the significance of the import risk-analysis process used by Biosecurity Australia in framing potential outbreaks of fire-blight disease as a technical issue of risk management'an antipolitical activity. This attempt to shift disease-risk concerns away from the political was contested by Australian and New Zealand growers, who variously viewed the risk-assessment process as insufficiently scientific or as protectionist. We conclude that focusing on risk assessment as a political but putatively antipolitical activity provides crucial insights into the nuanced and complex relationship between biosecurity and trade liberalisation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-409
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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