Jan 3, 2022
Journalist raises questions on handling of PEI potato wart situation

In recent weeks, a news outlet in Canada has raised questions about CFIA’s management of potato wart in Prince Edward Island, as well as potential political interference by members of the PEI’s provincial government.

In an editorial in the PEI media outlet Saltwire, journalist Teresa Wright cited some of the same issues raised by USDA APHIS and the U.S. potato industry over CFIA’s lack of transparency in their testing protocols. She writes that during an open meeting of a PEI standing committee, CFIA officials testifying “revealed some surprising new details that shed new light” on the questions of “how we got here and how we could prevent this crisis from happening again?”

Wright said that during the hearing “One of the biggest revelations came from CFIA potato section manager Gordon Henry when explaining PEI’s long-term potato wart management plan. Henry explained that as part of this plan, which has been kept confidential for years, potato growers are allowed to continue to plant potatoes in fields where wart has been found after just five years of being taken out of production.” Additionally, CFIA officials testified that the full details of their management plan “cannot be released because it contains ‘third-party information’ and details about sites found to contain the virus.”

Noting that the potato industry is worth over $1 billion a year to the economy of PEI, she said that, “Even with all that at stake, the confidential potato wart management plan has been allowing fields in which potato wart has been discovered to continue to produce potatoes.”

In a new piece, Wright wrote that a provincial cabinet minister may have tried to “interfere in a scientific process enacted by a regulatory agency.” She wrote that “a letter sent by PEI’s agriculture minister to a federal Liberal cabinet minister in October voicing concerns about the national potato wart survey is raising questions about political interference in the weeks prior to the export ban imposed on PEI potatoes in November.” She reported that the letter said PEI potato growers “were concerned about the purpose of the national survey and how it would be used. He asked (the federal cabinet minister) to step in so Ottawa could provide more clarity on these issues before beginning the national survey.”

Robert Henderson, a former PEI agriculture minister, said that the letter “shows they weren’t very proactive, in fact they were counterproductive in trying to either slow the process down, get more clarity on the process, trying to even intervene in the process.” Wright argued that after two consecutive years of potato wart finds on PEI, “the government should have been encouraging every step possible to reassure its trading partners the situation was under control.”

NPC comments on famoxadone risk assessment 

On Dec. 22, the National Potato Council submitted comments to the U.S. EPA in response to the agency’s draft ecological risk assessment for famoxadone, which was posted on March 8, 2021 in the Federal Register. NPC stated its support for the draft assessment, which found no ecological risk concerns to non-target organisms associated with the registered uses of famoxadone.

NPC wrote, “Potato production in the U.S. relies on the use of famoxadone as part of integrated management plan on a variety of potato diseases including Alternaria spp., phytophthora spp., Pectobacterium carotovora and Colletotrichum coccodes.

“Famoxadone is a critical component of Integrated Pest Management practices in controlling Late Blight (Phytophthora infestans) and is used in a rotation to minimize the development of resistance to any product.”

The full letter can be found here.

Potatoes USA’s Harvey guest on ‘Eye on Potatoes’

Before Christmas, Potatoes USA Culinary Director RJ Harvey called into the “Eye on Potatoes” podcast to talk about his role in impacting healthful changes across the culinary industry and his Potato Expo cooking sessions with world-renowned broadcaster, food writer, author, cook, Food Network judge and TV personality Simon Majumdar.

Subscribe and download here or wherever you listen to podcasts by searching for “Eye on Potatoes.”


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