Eating Invaders: Managing Biological Invasions with Fork and Knife?
Natural Resources and the Environment (American Bar Association); 2013
4 Pages Posted: 31 May 2017 Last revised: 24 Mar 2018
Date Written: September 1, 2013
As the public, academy, government, and private sector all turn increased attention to food systems, new ideas constantly emerge for healthy, sustainable, and just innovations in growing, marketing, and eating food. “Invasivory” — eating invasive species — is one such idea. Biological invasions occur when humans transport an organism from its ecosystem of origin into a new ecosystem and that organism adapts to its new location, spreading widely from the site of introduction. Invasive species can cause significant ecological, economic, and public health damage. Crops, homes, and native species are all at risk. “Invasivores,” as the proponents of invasivory are called, recognize the many dangers of invasive species, and they propose bringing invaders into the food system. Whether as commodities, value-added artisanal goods, game, or any other object of the system, the argument is the same: the food system is a powerful force and human eating habits can effect dramatic change as is evidenced from the many species that humans have eaten to near extinction. What was bad for the passenger pigeon or Atlantic Cod is good for European starlings or Asian carp. Put differently, humans can address the problems of invasive species by eating them. Businesses, governments, and academics now promote the invasivore movement. In New Haven, Connecticut, Chef Bun Lai of Miya’s Sushi is one of the nation’s leading invasivores, and he serves a number of invasive dishes in his restaurant. Governments as different as Michigan and Florida have started campaigns to promote consumption of invasive fish. Professors and graduate students from Vermont to Indiana host websites touting the ecological benefits. Unfortunately, there are compelling arguments against the invasivore movement. This article will describe the rationale and breadth of the eating invaders movement followed by a series of critiques. For example, both food safety and environmental laws may prohibit the sale of many invasive species. Birth and death rates might make it impossible for consumption to have any impact on populations. Social expectations and economic standards are likely to interfere with complete eradication of any popular food source. The invasivore movement is captivating and, to its credit, is a tool for educating the public about an important issue. However, it is unlikely to be effective and the more popular it becomes, the more likely it is to exacerbate ecological problems. For this reason, a more critical and public debate of the idea is necessary.
Keywords: Invasive species, eating invaders, conservation biology, environmental law, food law, environmental policy, food law and policy
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