Alien invaders were quite the topic yesterday at a forum on biosafety in Beijing.
However, as opposed to the kind from outer space, the invaders discussed were non-indigenous plants and animals that experts say are hurting China's economy.
A study by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences found that 11 major alien species have caused annual losses of 57.4 billion yuan (US$7 billion), in sectors such as agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry. Ministry of Agriculture specialist Wan Fanghao called the control task "arduous."
Wan, executive director of the Centre for Management of Invasive Alien Species under the ministry, spoke to the biosafety session of the International High-Level Forum on Bioeconomy.
He said initial statistics indicate that at least 400 alien species have already invaded China, harming local ecosystems and threatening native species.
"While research on invasive alien species in developed countries has ranged from an early-warning system to a mechanism for biological recovery, China's response has been slow," Wan said.
Research on alien species in China has focused on quarantine, inspection and integrated prevention technology, but it lags significantly behind the international level, he said.
Complicating the matter is the country's increasing integration with the rest of the world in terms of trade and personnel exchanges. Zhu Shuifang, another expert at the meeting, called for a more comprehensive system to ensure China's biosafety at borders and entry points.
Zhu, from the China Institute of Animal and Plant Quarantine, said at least 35,000 staff are working at the borders, searching for invasive alien species.
Last year, they intercepted 1,310 such species in 80,000 batches of goods, Zhu said.
To meet the demands of species control amid economic globalization, China has to improve its monitoring and information-gathering networks, he said.
Systems involving risk forecasting, rapid screening and rapid response to non-native species should also be set up in China, Wan and Zhu suggested.
(China Daily 09/16/2005)