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No more potato wart found in 2 P.E.I. fields

Potato wart poses no risk to humans or food safety, but it can be a serious disease for the infected potatoes, which become disfigured. (Courtesy: CFIA)

Testing by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has found no more potato wart fungus in two fields in Queens County, Prince Edward Island. In October 2020, routine export soil testing identified the fungus in the fields, about 20 hectares on the same farm.

Potato wart poses no risk to humans or food safety, but it can be a serious disease for the infected potatoes, which become disfigured, making them unmarketable. It also prevents tuber production. Although the fungus was not detected in any of the affected farm's potatoes and none had been shipped from its 2020 harvest, import of all P.E.I. seed potatoes to the U.S. was halted immediately.

The CFIA said in an email to CBC News that it continues to work with officials in the U.S. to resume exports. With its preliminary investigation now completed, the CFIA said it will conduct regulatory research on the two fields, and the fields will continue to be regulated under its long-term potato wart management plan.

Potato wart can remain dormant in a field for more than 20 years. It is spread through the movement of infested tubers, soil and farm equipment.

United States big buyer of P.E.I. seed

In 2000, potato wart shut down trade between P.E.I. and the U.S. when it was first found on the Island. Since then, new protocols have been introduced for monitoring and controlling the spread of the fungus, and there were no trade issues after subsequent discoveries of the fungus, including in 2012 and 2014.

The border closure in 2000 cost P.E.I. potato farmers $22 million in sales. About 15 per cent of potatoes grown on P.E.I. are used for seed.

The U.S. has been the single biggest international buyer. In 2019, they bought $3.1 million worth of seed potatoes from P.E.I., out of $4.5 million exported.
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