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Feed or Weed? New Pastures Sow Future Problems

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Published on Nov 3, 2014

"Feed or Weed" flags a major opportunity to avoid future damage to the natural environment. Based on a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "Feed or Weed" highlights the ongoing risks that new pasture varieties will become invasive, degrade natural ecosystems and escalate the cost of land management. Using a quirky combination of stop-motion animation and editing tricks, the video urges governments, industry and farmers to take action now so that past land management mistakes are not repeated, or made worse.

The paper was written by:
Don A. Driscoll(a,b), Jane A. Catford (a,b,c,d), Jacob N. Barney (e), Philip E. Hulme (f), Inderjit (g), Tara G. Martin (a,h), Aníbal Pauchard (i,j), Petr Pyšek (k,l), David M. Richardson (m), Sophie Riley (n), Vernon Visser (m).

a. National Environmental Research Program Environmental Decisions Group and ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, Australia.
b. Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, ACT, 0200, Australia.
c. School of Botany, The University of Melbourne, Vic 3010, Australia.
d. Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55108, USA.
e. Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, USA.
f. Bio-Protection Research Centre, Lincoln University, PO Box 85084, Lincoln 7647, New Zealand.
g. Department of Environmental Studies, and Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems, University of Delhi, Delhi 110007, India
h. CSIRO Land and Water, GPO Box 2583 Brisbane, QLD, 4001, Australia
i. Facultad de Ciencias Forestales, Universidad de Concepción, Casilla 160-C, Concepción, Chile.
j. Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB), Chile
k. Institute of Botany, Department of Invasion Ecology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, CZ-25243 Průhonice, Czech Republic
l. Department of Ecology, Charles University in Prague, Viničná 7, CZ-12844 Prague, Czech Republic.
m. Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland 7602, South Africa.
n. Faculty of Law, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia


The abstract of the paper by Driscoll et al 2014 PNAS is:

Agricultural intensification is critical to meet global food demand, but intensification threatens native species and degrades ecosystems. "Sustainable intensification" (SI), is heralded as a new approach for enabling growth in agriculture while minimising environmental impacts. However, the SI literature has overlooked a major environmental risk. Using data from eight countries on six continents, we show that few governments regulate conventionally-bred pasture taxa to limit threats to natural areas, even though most agribusinesses promote taxa with substantial weed risk. New pasture taxa (including species, subspecies, varieties, cultivars and plant-endophyte combinations) are bred with characteristics typical of invasive species and environmental weeds. By introducing novel genetic and endophyte variation, pasture taxa are imbued with additional capacity for invasion and environmental impact. New strategies to prevent future problems are urgently needed. We highlight opportunities for researchers, agribusiness and consumers to reduce environmental risks associated with new pasture taxa. We also emphasize four main approaches that governments could consider as they build new policies to limit weed risks, including: (1) national lists of taxa that are prohibited based on environmental risk; (2) a weed risk assessment for all new taxa; (3) a program to rapidly detect and control new taxa that invade natural areas, and; (4) the "polluter-pays" principle, so that if a taxon becomes an environmental weed, industry pays for its management. There is mounting pressure to increase livestock production. With foresight and planning, growth in agriculture can be achieved sustainably provided that the scope of SI expands to encompass environmental weed risks.

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