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Canadian Biodiversity Strategy

GOAL 1 - Conservation and Sustainable Use

E. Biosafety: Harmful Alien Organisms and Living Modified Organisms

Harmful Alien Organisms

Alien organisms are species that enter ecosystems beyond their natural range through deliberate or inadvertent introduction by humans. Organisms that have extended their natural range without human help are not considered alien. The term "alien" is not meant to imply positive or negative impacts on biodiversity. Many alien organisms have been intentionally introduced into Canada and have provided important economic and social benefits. For example, most of Canada's agricultural crops and many horticultural products were developed from genetic material obtained in other countries.

Alien Organisms

Article 8:

8
Prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species.

Convention on Biological Diversity

Other alien organisms that have been introduced have caused harmful effects to biodiversity. Some well known examples are the sea lamprey and zebra mussels which have had considerable impacts on the Great Lakes ecosystem, and purple loosestrife, which has spread rapidly throughout wetland areas. Such undesirable introductions have had major environmental and economic impacts.

Impacts of Harmful Alien Organisms

Human use and enjoyment of natural areas is directly affected by harmful alien organisms. For instance, Eurasian watermilfoil has invaded many lake shorelines and slow-moving rivers in Ontario and southern British Columbia adversely affecting these areas as recreational resources.

Harmful alien organisms may affect biodiversity through species displacement, disease, parasitism, hybridization, predation or habitat destruction. This results in the decline or extinction of native or endemic populations and the transformation or degradation of ecosystems. Control or elimination of harmful alien organisms is necessary to conserve biodiversity and prevent the further destruction of ecosystems.

Strategic Directions

81.

Take all necessary steps to prevent the introduction of harmful alien organisms and eliminate or reduce their adverse effects to acceptable levels by:

  1. developing and implementing effective means to identify and monitor alien organisms;
  2. determining priorities for allocating resources for the control of harmful alien organisms based on their impact on native biodiversity and economic resources, and implementing effective control or, where possible, eradication measures;

    Alien Organisms on the Queen Charlotte Islands

    • Over 70% of the world's population of Ancient Murrelets and significant populations of other seabirds such as Cassin's Auklet, Rhinoceros Auklets and Tufted Puffins use the islands as breeding grounds.
    • Introduction of raccoons and rats threatens more than 70% of the seabird colonies nesting there.

    State of the Environment Report for British Columbia, 1992

  3. identifying and eliminating common sources of unintentional introductions;
  4. developing national and international databases that support the identification and anticipation of the introduction of potentially harmful alien organisms in order to develop control and prevention measures;
  5. ensuring that there is adequate legislation and enforcement to control introductions or escapes of harmful alien organisms, and improving preventative mechanisms such as screening standards and risk assessment procedures; and
  6. enhancing public education and awareness of the impacts of harmful alien organisms and the steps that can be taken to prevent their introduction.
82.
Promote research into methods and approaches that improve our ability to assess whether or not alien organisms will have an adverse impact on biodiversity.

Living Modified Organisms

Living modified organisms resulting from biotechnology offer the potential for important economic and social benefits as well as a means to address existing ecological problems affecting biodiversity. However, these organisms also have the potential to adversely affect populations, species and ecosystems.

Strategic Directions

83.

Prevent the introduction of potentially harmful living modified organisms by:

  1. ensuring that there is adequate legislation and enforcement to control introductions or escapes of harmful living modified organisms, and improving preventative mechanisms such as screening standards and risk assessment procedures; and
  2. developing national and international database capacities that enable Canada to identify and anticipate the introduction of potentially harmful living modified organisms.
84.
Promote research into methods and approaches that improve our ability to assess whether or not living modified organisms will have an adverse impact on biodiversity.