Ever wondered why Canada Customs officials confiscated those harmless apples? Frustrated about the loss of Auntie Helen’s gift of beef jerky from Singapore? And why is it anyone’s business if you’ve stepped, or will step, on farm soil?

Non-native species hitchhike into our country in travellers’ shoe treads, baggage, foods, and other animal and plant material. And they cause extensive harm; for example, the blueberry scorch virus affects B.C.’s $64-million blueberry industry, and the potato wart fungus costs potato farmers in P.E.I. an estimated $280 million through an American import ban.

Livestock can also be affected, such as by foot-and-mouth disease, once introduced to Canada by a visitor from an affected area.

Visits to farms get special attention because of the economic risks to our agricultural industry posed by harmful bacteria, fungal spores or seeds of invasive plants that might be on your clothing or shoes. But non-native species do considerable damage elsewhere, too. Himalayan blackberry and Japanese knotweed are two ornamental plants introduced to North America that have spread quickly at the expense of native plants and animals, and are difficult and costly to remove.

Let’s be the first line of defence in Canada’s war against dangerous invaders. Help Canada Customs protect our crops and livestock and avoid costly fines while you’re at it.

Kai Chan is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability (IRES) at UBC. He’s a transdisciplinary environmental researcher, integrating ethics and social and natural sciences. Veronica Lois a M.Sc. student studying
non-native species at UBC (and is herself non-native to B.C.).

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