Justice J.H. Langston of the Alberta Superior Court in Lethbridge, AB, has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Potato Growers of Alberta against the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to stop the release of potential damaging testimony concerning bacterial ring rot in seed potatoes.
In the decision made December 21, Judge Langston agreed with Washington State Potato Commission legal counsel that BRR investigation evidence is not a state secret and would not violate Canada's national sovereignty if it was released.
WSPC had intervened in support of CFIA at hearings last August and September, sending counsel to argue its points and cross examine PGA witnessses.
The benchmark ruling is the first in which a Canadian agency/court has given recognition or credence to complaints filed by the WSPC and United States potato industry against the Canadian potato industry over a number of grievences, many dealing with seed certification and trade issues.
"This is not only a win for Washington state but the U.S. potato growers who deserve to know about the condition of the seed they purchase from Canada. "It is also a step forward in getting Canada to have a more transparent seed certification system," Pat Boss, WSPC executive director, said.
The judge found PGA's contention that revelation of the document's content would impact national sovereignty "speculative and not supported by the material." While the judge acknowleded that information on the existence of BRR among Canadian seed growers could cause economic hardship, he could not find "such economic pressure, if indeed it were to be exerted, would amount to an infringement of Canadian sovereignty.
He further questioned if "maintaining secrecy with respect to food inspection standards could have a detrimental effect on Canada's international trade relations." In fact, in criticizing the application brought by the PGA, Langston went on to conclude that "transparency" with respect to the production of CFIA documents could result in a more favorable view of Canada's agricultural products by other nations.
Langston also agreed there was no merit in PGA's argument to warrant his nspectio of the contested documents, saying "PGA's argument is potential harm in making the CFIA's standards and testing methods known to a foreign tribunal and I have rejected that argument."