A Weed by any Other Name: Would the Rose Smell as Sweet if it Were a Threat to Biodiversity?

Georgetown University Law Center
Publication Type:
Journal Article
The Georgetown International Environmental Law ..., 2009, 22 (1), pp. 157 - 184
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Defining and determining what amounts to an invasive alien species has always been a challenging task for states. In particular, where a species is regarded as a resource by one product sector or regime, but considered harmful by another sector or regime, States must often balance or compromise competing claims. Such is the case with respect to the emerging issue of biofuels. Biofuels which are plants from which precursor alcohols such as methanol and ethanol are distilled are seen by states as a potential solution to the problems of climate change and the energy crisis. Yet, many plant species that are promoted as efficient sources of biofuels are also amongst the worldâs worst invasive species. Effective IAS regimes need to be based on a variety of features, including the formulation of definitions that clearly articulate the object and parameters of regulation, as well as the political will to make definitions operational by implementing appropriate regulation. Without clarity of definition and political will, regulators face uncertainty with respect to the establishment of meaningful regimes. Although environmental instruments such as the CBD Guiding Principles and the IUCN Guidelines contain definitions of âinvasive alien speciesâ that are wide enough to include species considered a resource, States have not predominantly embraced these approaches. This hesitancy fundamentally reflects a lack of political will on the part of States to regard useful species as an actual or potentially invasive alien species â a situation that is set to reoccur in the case of biofuels.
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