Thursday, September 24

Preventing invasions

With all the invasive species coming through the various modes of transport -the "salties" into the lakes, flights from "climatically-proximate" locations, etc., I started thinking about the border regulations in place for protecting each country's ecosystem. As a traveller, I was rather ignorant of the consequences of bringing food across borders- my food stash has been confiscated at Customs several times.

The U.S. Customs has a list of regulations regarding agricultural/ food products (yes, they confiscated my coconut jam once), which is a little less extensive compared to the biosecurity regulations of countries like Australia and New Zealand. (List of items prohibited from NZ here) On a trip to NZ 10 years ago, I was rather upset that the NZ Customs took away my apple that I had brought from Singapore (which was imported from NZ. On a sidenote, 90% of all food consumed in Singapore is imported, that'll be another blog post...) There the penalties are higher than mere confiscation (i.e. fines and perhaps, prosecution), which is probably a stronger deterrent for travellers who unknowingly carry invasive species that endanger environments.

Here's a photo from photographer Taryn Simon's book "An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar". Reading the list of what people have tried to bring into the country, I don't want to know what strange bugs/ invasives tag along with passengers whose suitcases pass customs unchecked.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Contraband Room
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Queens, New York

African cane rats infested with maggots, African yams (dioscorea), Andean potatoes, Bangladeshi cucurbit plants, bush meat, cherimoya fruit, curry leaves (murraya), dried orange peels, fresh eggs, giant African snail, impala skull cap, jackfruit seeds, June plum, kola nuts, mango, okra, passion fruit, pig nose, pig mouths, pork, raw poultry (chicken), South American pig head, South American tree tomatoes, South Asian lime infected with citrus canker, sugar cane (poaceae), uncooked meats, unidentified sub tropical plant in soil.

All items in the photograph were seized from the baggage of passengers arriving in the U.S. at JFK Terminal 4 from abroad over a 48-hour period. All seized items are identified, dissected, and then either ground up or incinerated. JFK processes more international passengers than any other airport in the United States.

© Taryn Simon

Taken from here

--georgi p

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