Background Documents: Major Issues
Regulatory and quarantine decisions are necessarily based on accurate identification and information about organisms that threaten U.S. agriculture. Systematics expertise and resources in the Beltsville Area provide the crucial identifications and the background information necessary to determine if, for example, a planeload of cut flowers from the Netherlands may safely be allowed entry into the country. Within the USDA, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is the regulatory arm that depends directly on ARS systematics resources to make sound quarantine, risk assessment and regulatory decisions. Every day APHIS personnel consult directly with the BA systematics laboratories for specimen identifications, use the specimen collections, and consult on-line resources about the biology, host and geographic distribution of unwanted organisms in order to make quarantine decisions and risk assessment. An erroneous decision has consequences, and may lead to the inadvertent introduction of a harmful organism resulting in enormous agricultural loss or serious environmental degradation.
Once new organisms are inadvertently introduced, the Beltsville systematics laboratories serve other agricultural agencies such as Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Forest Service, other federal agencies especially those in the US Department of the Interior such as the Fish and Wildlife. These organizations on the systematics knowledge base and service provided by the Beltsville Area systematics laboratories in dealing with insects, fungi, nematodes and animal parasites.
Increasingly the Systematics Laboratories represent the core expertise for reliable and "expert" identifications of pests and pathogens that can threaten the plant and animal industries. BARC scientists are also the source of expert knowledge needed for management and regulatory decisions among other agricultural agencies, e.g., Food Safety Inspection Agency and the Forest Service, and federal departments including the Department of Interior with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Resources Division, and Bureau of Land Management, which often address issues at the interface of managed and natural ecosystems. Additionally, our laboratories have had a significant service role for various State agencies who have historically been dependent on our base of knowledge but which lack the depth of systematic resources available in the federal government.