Monday, June 01, 2009

Should Invasive Species be used for Food?

“U.S. supermarkets sold $2 million of dandelion greens in the year that ended in March, a 9% increase over the year earlier” report the Wall Street Journal. Eating the dandelion instead of spraying it would be sustainable solution with many eco-system benefits. As dandelions are not on the list of destructive invasive species of natural areas preferring the already disturbed suburban lawn and the crack in the concrete in our cities, the immediate problem of unintended consequences is probably minimal.

The alarms go off when we consider deep double battered fried kudzu. Now comes the rule of unintended consequences daring us to create a value and a market opportunity. Why would we want to fall in love with a culinary delicacy such as fried kudzu only to find that the intent is to remove it all from North America? Who thinks that kudzu will not be planted to supply the cravings of our desires and our fads.

Should we harvest kudzu for bio-fuel, nutria for pelts (and state bounties), and European green crabs for menus? The idea is compelling at first. Perhaps by adding value we can clean up and remove invasive species with program of harvesting. Invasive species create pressures on ecosystem services creating scarcities and therefore costs to society in whole and in part. These costs are known as opportunity costs. Doing nothing about invasive species creates an opportunity cost that consists of for example the loss of genetic diversity through habitat destruction. Allocating finite resources to clean up invasive species may result in the reduction of contributions to education or public safety.

So we create demand and find value for the ecosystem disruptive invasive species; the greater the demand, the higher the price, the quicker the elimination through harvesting. And perhaps the sooner an enterprising person creates a commercialization of the crop or herd and begins to farm the very species we intended to rid our natural areas of,

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