Published online: Jan 07, 2008 Alan Harman
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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says testing of more than 8,700 soil samples from Alberta seed potato fields last year did not find the presence of a detectable potato cyst nematode population.

Soil samples were collected and tested for PCN as part of the joint PCN certification protocol for all seed potatoes traded between Canada and the United States, an agreement signed by the CFIA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in March 2007.

Additional soil samples were collected and tested over the past three months after test results indicated the possible presence of PCN in two fields in northern Alberta.

Following the initial positive test results from October 2007, the CFIA immediately placed internationally recognized control measures on the implicated farms to prevent the potential spread of PCN.

The CFIA and the USDA placed temporary restrictions on the movement of potatoes from Alberta to the U.S. in November pending soil test results. Then in December, Mexico's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food  imposed temporary restrictions prohibiting the import of seed potatoes and potatoes for consumption and processing originating from Alberta.

The recently completed testing was part of an investigation initiated by the CFIA to provide domestic and international industry groups and trading partners with the assurances they required to maintain and restore market access for Alberta potato growers.

"At this time, neither the U.S. nor Mexico has indicated that they will lift their temporary trade restrictions," the CFIA says in a statement. "The CFIA is continuing its discussions with the USDA and SAGARPA and has provided them with all requested information to achieve a resolution to these temporary trade restrictions as quickly as possible and to reduce them to a smaller area of Alberta."

The CFIA, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Alberta government are continuing to work with growers, the implicated agricultural sectors, industry and Canada's trading partners to respond to this issue and to protect Canadian growers.