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New analysis weighs lost trade, costs to control invasive species against economic damages

How should a country respond to a biological invader that reaches its shores via cargo shipped as international trade?

Pesky invaders like Zebra mussels, Asian Longhorned Beetles, Kudzu, Triffid weed and others have wreaked billions of dollars in economic damage, destroying agriculture, harming human health and threatening biodiversity.

The answer: Policymakers must balance concerns about the damage and cost of controlling invaders against the economic necessity of free trade, say economists Santanu Roy, Southern Methodist University, and Lars J. Olson, University of Maryland.

In their article "Dynamic Sanitary and Phytosanitary Trade Policy," Roy and Olson examine the various conditions policymakers must evaluate to determine the best policies governing invasive species based on sound economics. The article was published in July in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. For a link to the article and more information see

Invasive species a growing threat worldwide

Roy and Olson developed their analysis in response to the growing number of biological invasions, which are raising important trade policy issues, Roy says.

Their research was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Program of Research on the Economics of Invasive Species Management, or PREISM. Invasive species, such as pests and weeds, destroy agriculture and cost the industry hundreds of billions of dollars annually, say experts.

"In their native habitat, these species are kept in control by their competitors and predators," Roy says. "But once they are out of their habitat, they can multiply and spread at an enormous rate as there are fewer natural predators and they put local native species in great difficulty and danger of survival."

A qualitative analysis to guide policymakers

The analysis by Roy and Olson pro

Contact: Margaret Allen
Southern Methodist University

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