New CAST Commentary Evaluates Risk of Biofuel Crops Becoming Invasive Species

November 5, 2007

 

For Immediate Release                                                       
 
 
 
 
CAST Releases New Commentary Evaluating Potential Risks of Biofuel Crops Becoming Invasive Species
 
            November 5, 2007.  The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) is releasing a new CAST Commentary, Biofuel Feedstocks: The Risk of Future Invasions, as part of the joint annual meetings of the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America in New Orleans, Louisiana.
 
   In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expand domestic energy production, and maintain economic growth, public and private investments are being used to pursue dedicated feedstock crops for biofuel production. But several of the candidate biofuel feedstock species being considered for commercial production in the United States are invasive pests in other regions where they have been introduced. Therefore, the objectives of this Commentary are to describe the potential risk of dedicated lignocellulose biofuel species becoming weedy or invasive, and to provide a process to quantify and, subsequently, minimize this risk.
 
Critical questions this Commentary will address include the following:
  •  What similarities exist between agronomic and invasive traits?
  • How will genetic modification affect potential invasiveness?
  • How can future invasions be mitigated?
  • What are the policy implications with regard to economic or ecological damage?
 
            “Breeding and genetic engineering for enhanced environmental tolerance, increased harvestable biomass production, and enhanced energy conservation through fermentation may have unexpected ecological consequences outside the agronomic framework,” says Task Force Chair Dr. Joseph M. DiTomaso, Assistant Extension Non-Crop Weed Ecologist, University of California, Davis. “The potential societal benefits of a biologically based energy crop supply are great, but the introduction and development of biofuel crops should be conducted to minimize the risk of these proposed feedstock species escaping cultivation and causing economic or environmental damage.”
 
            CAST Executive Vice President John M. Bonner concludes, “Carefully researched by an impressive group of scientists, this latest CAST Commentary highlights critical areas in the evaluation of biofuels. CAST is pleased to present this document as part of the ongoing biofuels discussion.”
 
            The full text of Biofuel Feedstocks: The Risk of Future Invasions (CAST Commentary QTA 2007-1) will be available online without charge beginning November 5, 2007 at the CAST website (www.cast-science.org), along with many of CAST’s other scientific publications.  CAST is an international consortium of 38 scientific and professional societies. It assembles, interprets, and communicates credible science-based information regionally, nationally, and internationally to legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public.
 
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Contacts:
Dr. Joseph M. DiTomaso—Phone: 530-754-8715; E-mail: jmdtomaso@ucdavis.edu
Dr. John M. Bonner—Phone: 515-292-2125, ext. 25; E-mail: jbonner@cast-science.org