Invasive Species' Unchecked Growth Costs Billions

Sep 30, 2002

Invasive Species' Unchecked Growth Costs Billions
House Agriculture Subcommittee to call federal and scientific organizations

September 30, 2002 - Mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus, strange-looking fish known as "snakeheads," and a glassy-winged sharpshooter whose deadly aim could kill off the California wine industry are among a growing list of invasive species that federal and scientific organizations will detail before a hearing of the House Agriculture Department Operations Subcommittee, Wednesday, October 2 at 10 a.m. in 1300 Longworth House Office Building.

"I remain alarmed at the alien plants, pests and animals whose unchecked growth threaten public health, cost the U.S. economy up to $100 billion annually, and menace nearly half of the species already listed as threatened or endangered," said Subcommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, (R-VA). "Coordination among federal agencies is vital to prevent them, but where prevention has failed, the priority is to contain and eradicate these invasive species."

Scheduled witnesses testifying before the Subcommittee include representatives from USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, The Smithsonian, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, National Weed Science Society, American Seed Trade Association, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

Members of Congress and the public may view a collection of invasive species in Room 1302 Longworth House Office Building, the morning of the hearing and until 2 p.m. that afternoon. The hearing will convene at 10 a.m. in the Main Committee Room, 1300 Longworth.

Invasive species are non-native species of plants, animals, and pests that cause harm to human health, the environment or the economy. For example:

West Nile virus now threatens people and animals in 42 states and the District of Columbia, transmitted by an aggressive and adaptable mosquito species that arrived inside rubber tires imported from Asia. The number of deaths in the United States this year has risen to 94.

The Asian longhorned beetle, which probably arrived in solid wood pallets from China, causes destruction of valuable trees in urban areas and threatens millions of acres of treasured hardwoods in national forests.

Citrus canker disease has destroyed valuable citrus groves in Florida.

Heartwater is an infectious, but not contagious, tick-borne disease of domestic and wild animals including cattle, sheep, goats, antelope and buffalo migrating from Africa to the nearby Caribbean.

The glassy-winged sharpshooter, an invasive insect carries with it a plant bacterium that has caused nearly $40 million in losses of California grapes, plus nearly $35 billion yearly costs to grape, raisin, and wine industries, and the tourism associated with them.

Foot and Mouth Disease, a highly contagious animal disease, has caused the United States to ban meat imports. The epidemic has already cost British companies $30 billion dollars. Small businesses have lost on average $75,000 and larger ones have lost approximately $300,000.

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