Quelling trade brush fires with science

What do Algeria, Aruba, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Romania and Vietnam have in common?

All of them have been at the center of a scientific question with trade or other burning international implications for themselves or the United States. And all the questions were resolved through work of the Agricultural Research Service.

While the questions varied, time was always of the essence in settling the situations, according to an article in the May issue of the agency's Agricultural Research magazine, available online at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/may06/fire0506.htm

In 2000, for example, Brazil banned U.S. wheat imports because of fears of the wheat seed gall nematode. That was serious business, because Brazil is the largest buyer of U.S. wheat in South America. But the ban was lifted in early 2001 after ARS researchers proved to the Brazilians' satisfaction that the nematodes were not a threat.

According to ARS nematologist David Chitwood, the Brazilians came to ARS because the agency has the most expertise in identifying nematodes and, as a non-regulatory science agency, has nothing at stake in a trade issue.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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