Across every sector and at every level of the agriculture industry, countless conversations are occurring these days about traceability. Now that technologies exist that can track origin, movement history and current locations of product – be it milk, livestock, or in this case, potatoes – traceability is becoming a huge priority for product producers, retailers and consumers alike.
It is now possible to trace food products from the field to the consumer through every stage of production, processing and distribution. This real-time tracking means value chains are better able to collect production and consumer data, can work towards huge improvements in biosecurity, and can far more fully and efficiently control challenges like disease outbreaks, contamination events and recalls.
While traceability offers important advances for food applications, it is also a priority in seed, primarily for the sake of plant health.
Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations govern the quality, classification and movement of seed potatoes that are sold within, imported into and exported out of Canada, including specific requirements for everything from classes of seed potato, to inspection and testing, to storage, packaging and damage.
In addition, CFIA governs the release of seed into the environment in order to assess plants with novel traits (including genetically modified plants).
Finally, CFIA also regulates variety registration, including mandating requirements for registration applications, eligibility of varieties, and proof of quality trials and tests such as the TGA (total glycoalkaloid level) or ‘greening’ test.
Canada is fortunate to have a single national seed potato certification agency, unlike other jurisdictions that are governed by state or area-specific regulations and bodies. This governance structure makes interprovincial movement of seed potatoes hassle-free and ensures seed potato import and export negotiations and regulations are as efficient as possible.
All parts of the potato value chain should welcome and support CFIA’s traceability initiatives. These regulations are intended to prevent the spread of plant-borne, tuber-borne and soil-borne disease; limit the importation and movement of noxious weeds; and help ensure that minimum seed purity, germination levels, and variety purity standards are met. In addition, the rules provide a clear structure to ensure international trade both supports and maintains Canada’s healthy potato industry.
Growing uncertified, untested seed potatoes is incredibly risky, both to one’s own farm business and to the greater potato industry. CFIA regulations, cumbersome as they might seem at times, are in place to support producers, protect consumers, and foster international trade.