plant regulation-Trivial-and OT

Kenneth Hixson
Tue, 28 Jul 2009 11:34:48 PDT
Dear members:
	This thread is clearly off topic to the purpose of this group,
and obviously political.  Most of the comments so far have concentrated
on one trivial aspect of the problem, though an aspect that most
concerns members of this group.  The real problem is much larger, a
"bigger picture" but also political, and somewhat outside the focus of
this group.  Please forgive me for suggesting what I think is the real

First, the USDA does not have sufficient funding to enforce all of the
mandates that congress has given it.  The result is that the USDA must
decide where to spend the funding given it.  If it enforces the import
of plant material, it has to short the inspection of foods-and people
are sickened or killed by contaminated spinach or peppers/tomatoes
(do they know even now which one?).  Is the cost of lost due to invasive
plants and animals being considered in relation to the loss due to
death, sickness, medical costs, and reduced produce sales?  There was
a period last winter when spinach/salad greens growers and tomato/pepper
producers could not sell their product due to fears of contamination.
I don't know the loss suffered by the growers, but it was huge--and
probably far higher than the loss caused by invasive plant and animals.

Boyce wrote:
> Another factoid from invasive research that is not as widely known as it
> should be: less than 1% of non-native plants introduced into the USA
> have become invasive.
The most invasive animal in the USA is man, Homo sapiens, and this
animal has caused more environmental damage than all others combined.
The non-native plants introduced and cultured by this animal possibly
exceeds 90% of the land area.  These plants are non-invasive only if you
refuse to include cultivated plants.  Wheat, cotton, soybeans, potatoes,
tomatoes, and on and on.  Even corn, Zea mays, is supposedly descended
from plants that probably originated in Mexico.  Forests are logged and
the land replanted with different species. If the Nature Conservancy is
to achieve its' goal, man and his crops will have to be eradicated.

Maybe that's a desirable goal, but there may be a difference of opinion
on the part of some citizens.  I'm not sure we even know what the
landscape was like before man.  Current efforts in my area are to
restore "Oak savannah" areas, supposedly because they were natural, but
they were maintained by fires started periodically by the Indians, who
found hunting easier when the brush was burned out.  What the land was
like before the "American Indians" arrived is unknown, and probably
vastly different.  "Controlled burns" are now an accepted way of
maintaining "natural" areas, by very unnatural means.

> The last factoid: The financial impact of invasive plant species in
> North America have an interesting origin. The original costs were based
> upon the ANTICIPATED impact 

There is far too much speculation, and too few solid facts.  The USDA is
facing a situation of inadequate funding.  In the short run,
prohibition, a "white paper", "guilty until proven innocent" is probably
the cheapest solution.  The long run prospects are almost certainly
different-past experience indicates that prohibition encourages
smuggling.  We have some smuggling now, but it would become much more
profitable.  The last person I want to buy a plant from is a smuggler-
he has no incentive to provide true-to-name, disease free plants, and if
the plant I bought was diseased, would I dare complain to the
authorities or attempt to treat the disease?  Would I even know it was
diseased?  If it were rare and hard to obtain, I might accept the
disease symptoms as typical of the plant.

For the record, I would like the USDA to concentrate funding on food
safety inspections.  Plant import inspections should be treated as
desirable, but minimally (or unfunded) until more money is provided by
congress.  Some undesirable aliens will arrive, but even California is
not able to keep out all such problems, despite a rigorous and
longstanding quarantine.


One last thought--at least in my area, Master Gardeners--some are good,
but my experience has been that I know far more than they do, and that 
is not meant as a brag on my part--I'm disappointed.  K

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