China is facing a flora and fauna attack, a senior agriculture minister said yesterday, citing 140,000 shipments containing 2,800 types of harmful organisms that are estimated to have entered the country last year.
Around 288 alien species, 188 of which are plants, have been identified in China, according to Zhang Fengtong, director-general of the Ministry of Agriculture's (MOA) department of science and education.
The invasive species have severely affected agricultural and forestry products, local biodiversity, human health and trade, he said in an online interview posted on the central government's website (www.gov.cn).
The increased number of foreign species is not due to just trade. Many of the species are airborne, Zhang said.
"The recent discovery of some of these alien species is a result of increased attention and knowledge; others were useful in the past but are now harmful because of climate changes and environmental degradation," said Yu Taiwei, director of the animal and plant quarantine department of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).
To counter the threat, early warning, monitoring and response systems have been set up nationally. There are over 1,800 stations at various levels, 30,000 inspectors at nearly 700 ports, in addition to 35 quarantine bureaus established in 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.
While the MOA takes a lead role controlling the arrival of alien species, the State Forestry Administration (SFA), AQSIQ as well as other state-level agencies are also active.
China has seven existing laws - Agricultural Law, Law on the Entry and Exit of Animals and Plants Quarantine, Grassland Law, Seed Law, Fisheries Law, Forest Law and Wildlife Protection Law - and several other regulations addressing the issue.
Alien species in China are estimated to cause an economic loss of more than 56 billion yuan a year in the forestry industry alone, according to SFA senior engineer Wu Jian.
Source: China Daily