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Many plants being promoted as biofuels are serious weeds that should not be grown, a new assessment by the Invasive Species Council has found. In a report released at the Greenhouse 2007 climate change conference in Sydney, the Invasive Species Council explained that some biofuel crops “have bad reputations as weeds without any proven value as crops.” Seven plants considered promising as biofuels are banned as noxious weeds in parts of Australia: jatropha, spartina, castor oil plant, Chinee apple, olive, willows, and poplars. Two species – giant reed and spartina – appear on the IUCN’s ‘List of 100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Species'. Giant reed is now on trial as a biofuel crop in South Australia and in Florida, despite the enormous weed problems it causes around the world. In California alone, many millions of dollars are spent each year destroying it. “We should not try to solve one environmental problem by creating another,” said ISC spokesman and report author, Tim Low. “These plants have no proven value as biofuel crops but bad reptuations as weeds.” Jatropha is widely promoted as a “miracle crop” but there is no technology for harvesting its seeds. It is closely related to bellyache bush, one of the worst weeds of farmland in northern Australia. “The naïve enthusiasm shown for jatropha and other weedy biofuel plants recalls the enthusiasm shown for cane toads in a past age,” said Tim, “and the outcome may be similar.” “We should be very wary of over-hyped agricultural ventures, as past experience with golden apple snails and deer farming has shown." Any plant proposed as a biofuel should be assessed first for its environmental impact. Governments and biofuel experts have largely failed to acknowledge that the weed risk exists, an unacceptable situation. The report can be downloaded from the Invasive Species Council website at http://www.invasives.org.au/issues/biofuels.html
From: Tim Low [mailto:Tim.Low@uq.net.au]
Sent: Monday, 8 October 2007 12:18 p.m.
Subject: [Aliens-L] Biofuels as Weeds