When returning home from travel abroad, make sure you don’t allow yourself to become an unintentional agro/eco terrorist.
That is what you could be if you try to sneak in plants, vegetables and fruits across U.S. borders.
Bringing plants and plant products into the United States could open a Pandora’s box of diseases and insect pests on American farms, cities, forests and waterways, according to Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin.
Over the past few years, U.S. Borders and Customs Protection agriculture specialists have confiscated more than 4,000 plant imports harboring pests or diseases that could have caused widespread damage to plants and crops.
These foreign insect pests and diseases may have no natural predators here in the U.S. to help keep them under control. The damage they inflict can lead to higher food prices and require more pesticides to be used on crops.
The potential damage is not limited to farms, however. Gardens, forests, city streets and entire ecosystems can be affected.
Several pests accidentally brought in from overseas, such as the Asian long-horned beetle and the Mediterranean fruit fly, have already caused widespread destruction to U.S. crops and have cost taxpayers more than $460 million a year in eradication and containment efforts. For example, it has cost the city of Toledo, Ohio, $2.4 million for removal of trees infested with the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect known for destroying ash trees.
Those who think of bringing a foreign plant home should consider the potential damage their actions could cause. The advice applies not only to vacationers, but also to those who purchase plants from illegal sources over the Internet.
“With the wide variety of plants, trees, shrubs, bulbs and seeds available at Georgia nurseries and garden centers, there is no need to try to smuggle something in, anyway,” Irvin said.