Quelling Trade "Brush Fires" With Science / May 17, 2006 /
News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
story to find out more.
When this unwelcome, flesh-eating
"tourist"the screwworm turned up in Aruba, ARS helped
deport the pest.Click the image for more information about it.
Quelling Trade "Brush Fires" With
By Jim De
May 17, 2006
What do Algeria, Aruba, Brazil, Canada,
China, Cuba, Romania and Vietnam have in common?
Algeria stopped a ship from unloading U.S.-grown
wheat because it was believed tainted with a devastating wheat fungus. But ARS
mycologist Lisa Castlebury proved the culprit was a harmless lookalike, shown
here on the computer screen. Click the image for more information about
All of them have been at the center of a scientific question with trade or
other burning international implications for themselves or the United States.
And all the questions were resolved through work of the
Agricultural Research Service.
While the questions varied, time was always of the essence in settling the
situations, according to
article in the May issue of the agency's Agricultural Research magazine.
In 2000, for example, Brazil banned U.S. wheat imports because of fears of
the wheat seed gall nematode. That was serious business, because Brazil is the
largest buyer of U.S. wheat in South America. But the ban was lifted in early
2001 after ARS researchers proved to the Brazilians' satisfaction that the
nematodes were not a threat.
According to ARS nematologist
Chitwood, the Brazilians came to ARS because the agency has the most
expertise in identifying nematodes and, as a nonregulatory science agency, has
nothing at stake in a trade issue.
Among a half-dozen other episodes of quick-acting international research in
recent years, the magazine cites:
- In March 2004, Aruba had an outbreak of screwworm, a painful parasite that
can infest almost any warm-blooded animal--from livestock to tourists. But by
October, ARS' sterile-insect-release technology had eliminated screwworms from
the small Caribbean islandjust as it had worked earlier with
international cooperators to eliminate the pest from the United States, Mexico
and almost every country in Central America.
- In 2002, China notified the World Trade
Organization about new tests for gauging the quality of cotton fiber
imports. But ARS analyses of the tests persuaded Chinese officials not only to
postpone use of the new tests, but also to move toward modernizing that
nation's cotton classification system.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.