Prince Edward Island Minister of Agriculture Darlene Compton has tabled legislation that would give the provincial government a lead role in trying to prevent the spread of potato wart in the province. If passed, An Act to Amend the Plant Health Act would give the minister Compton the authority to prohibit or restrict the planting of certain crops within an area of a field where a regulated disease has been detected, for up to 20 years.
Currently, under the potato wart management plan administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, wart-resistant varieties of potatoes can be planted in those fields five years after the detection of potato wart. Compton said that would still be allowed except in the specific area of the field delineated under the legislation where potato wart was detected.
One year ago, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suspended the export of fresh P.E.I. potatoes to the United States and its territory of Puerto Rico following the discovery of potato wart in two Island fields. Potato wart is a fungus that disfigures potatoes so that they are unmarketable, and reduces yields, but poses no health risk to humans.
That decision brought to a sudden halt exports that are usually worth about $120 million per year to the P.E.I. economy. An investigation by CFIA has been ongoing since then. The border reopened in April, but not to seed potatoes from P.E.I.