The Potato Wart fungus has been the major subject for North
American and Canadian potato growers this past two weeks. The
fungus disease was discovered in a Prince Edward Island potato
field two weeks ago. It is recognized as a quarantine pest in
most countries, including Canada and the U.S. On October 31, the
USDA closed the U.S./Canada border to fresh and seed potatoes
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) considers the pathogen
to be present in a 0.4 hectare portion of field that is
approximately 30 hectares in size. Approximately 100 tubers were
found to be infected. The field was gleaned of all potatoes to
help ensure the pathogen would not be
Early this week potato representatives from Canada and the U.S.
met in Portland, Maine for the U.S/ Canada Potato Committee
Meeting and the potato wart fungus was a major discussion item.
Officials from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
(APHIS) and CFIA were also present for the discussions. The
following three tiered approach to the potato wart problem was
tentatively agreed upon.
Stage One - Immediately
Potatoes (tablestock and seed) from PEI may not move to the U.S.
Potatoes from other provinces of Canada can continue to be
exported to the U.S. with a CFIA Certificate of Origin. There
was concern that tablestock, moved off PEI could lose it's
identity and become co-mingled with potatoes from other Canadian
provinces, and get exported to the U.S. The following steps were
taken to address this concern. Immediate review of the process
used to identify origin to establish confidence. CFIA continues
delimiting survey and outbreak investigations. CFIA inspects
potatoes going off PEI to other Canadian provinces. To maintain
identity of potatoes shipped to other provinces, movements of
bulk shipments are suspended. Only potatoes in consumer-packed
bags, not exceeding 20 pounds, bearing PEI marks, may move to
Canada will continue towards officially regulating the infected
areas on PEI.
Before beginning to normalize exports of tablestock potatoes to
the U.S., CFIA must work out a system that adequately mitigates
the risk of potato wart. A number of steps were proposed
including washing and sprout inhibiting all tablestock,
heightened inspection prior to leaving PEI and allowing staff
from APHIS to "pre-clear" potatoes at the PEI inspection
station. APHIS indicated that whatever CFIA proposes would have
to be accompanied with data to demonstrate the extent of the
infestation. The review will be led by APHIS, and an outside
panel of pathologists/regulators (including Certification
officials) will review the CFIA proposal to determine if there
are any shortcomings with it, and to provide feedback to APHIS.
As Canada progresses in survey and eradication activities on PEI,
it will aim at establishing regulated and non-regulated areas,
based on survey, inspection and investigation evidence. After
completion of this stage, USDA will consider suspension of the
requirements of the systems approach and allow shipment of
tablestock from non-regulated areas. Potatoes from areas
regulated for potato wart may not be exported to the U.S.