Fruit Gardener
September/October 2000; Volume 32, Number 5

Prevent Prohibition of Imported Plants:
Help Stop the White List

J. L. Hudson

Here is a chance to make your voice heard in opposition to upcoming legislation designed by anti-exotic plant groups. The "White List" is a proposed law to ban the import, movement and cultivation of over 99 percent of the world’s plant species. Backed by corporate herbicide manufacturers and the Exotic Pest Plant Councils, the new law will ban any plant not on the government-approved "White List." All species will be considered guilty until proven innocent. Expensive safety testing will be required by law for all new plants before they are approved for possession and propagation. Thus, only major corporations will be able to afford to introduce new plants into cultivation.

We already have adequate weed prevention laws--it makes no sense to ban virtually the entire plant kingdom "just in case." This is equivalent to the government announcing that only "pre-approved" books, magazine articles, etc., would be allowed, and all new writings would have to pass through government censors before publication. The world’s biological diversity has been likened to a great library and now government book-burners will be in charge.

Current law "blacklists known harmful plants"; everything else is permitted. Under the White List, everything is prohibited except what is on the list.

By the time you read this the recently formed National Invasive Species Council (NISC) will have given the President its recommendations, which are expected to mandate "White List" legislation. If you want to be heard, now is the time. Contact your representatives and write to Bruce Babbitt, co-chair of the NISC. Write to your local newspapers, garden writers, garden clubs and magazines. Opposition to this legislation is growing, and it looks like we can stop this if enough of us speak out.

The best news I have for you is that a new group called the "No White List Coalition" has formed, and is actively coordinating the opposition. Next time you access the Internet, check out the Coalition’s Website, <www.geocities.com/nowhitelist>. This is an excellent site giving detailed information about the White List and the effects it will have, as well as legislators to contact and ways to take action. Here is a chance to turn back this bad law.

Imagine what it would like if you were only allowed to grow plants like those at the local Pricemart--well-known, patented and "safe." If that kind of gardening doesn’t appeal to you, let the government know that you are against the White List. (Here is specific information on how to contact the co-chairs of the National Invasive Species Council.)

Good points to make in letters are: we already have adequate weed laws; that "invasiveness" is impossible to predict except for well-known agricultural weeds; that no form of "risk assessment" has been successful; that in the absence of proven risk-assessment procedures the implementation of any form of "clean list" or "white list" legislation is completely inappropriate; that any pre-screening of imports will hamstring many areas of scientific research and place an expensive obstacle before biodiversity conservation efforts; that it will increase our dependence on foreign supplies of plant-based raw materials and decrease our competitiveness in world markets; that in a time of "reinventing government" it is reckless and irresponsible to expand an antiquated, cumbersome and inefficient bureaucracy at a time when we should be moving forward to a streamlined and efficient future. More ideas for letters can be found at the website.

Remember, a physical letter in an envelope carries as much weight as 100 phone calls or e-mails, so hit that print button and lick that stamp.


This adapted article was excerpted by CRFG member Ron Gabel from the Rare Seed Supplement, Number 2000-A, J.L. Hudson, Seedsman, Star Route 2, Box 337, La Honda, CA 94020. The author, J.L. Hudson, has placed this material in the public domain.
Ron Gabel may be contacted by writing to him at 10831 Parr Avenue, Sunland, CA 91040; or calling him at 818-352-6818.
California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
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