By David O. TeBeest
Department of Plant Pathology
University of Arkansas
The globalization of industry and all other forms of human endeavor is here to stay. But, sometimes with extremely curious twists and unexpected consequences.
In the August 30, 2002 issue of Science (www.sciencemag.org) Donald Kennedy has linked the Asian Tiger mosquito (now found in the US capital and a vector of the West Nile Virus) with a disease of rubber trees in Brazil. Kennedy suggests that a massive effort to establish rubber plantations in Brazil to provide the raw materials for tires failed due to a devastating disease of rubber trees in Brazil. However, the continuing need for rubber resulted in descendants of plants that were originally obtained in Brazil, propagated in England, and transported to Asia in the 19th century where they were used to successfully establish plantations. The Asian plantations soon dominated the market for natural rubber. The success of small cars using radial tires (which require real rubber) soon led to the birth of a small industry in the US for slightly used steel belted radials from Asia in the US. It appears that the Tiger mosquito hitched a ride aboard some of the water- filled casings and arrived in Houston in the early 1980s. Thus, failure to produce successful plantations in South America resulted in the movement of a plant and an industry to Asia with an unintentional redistribution of an insect to the US.
For more information that shows that other diseases and insects appear to be on the move throughout the world go to the website www.pestalert.org. The website reports and shows that several diseases and insects have been identified as entering the US or as having the potential to enter the US.