Seed World

Why Knee-Jerk Policy Doesn’t Work

Jennifer Scott

In these days of tense global trade relations, the importance of good communication between nations is paramount.

A great example of this is playing out right now with regard to a labelling program administered by CSI for garden/vegetable seed. Since 2002, we have worked with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to allow garden and vegetable seed to be shipped over the Canadian border into the U.S. so long as it’s labelled with the CFIA 5309 label, which is backed by either a PPQ 925 certificate of analysis for U.S.- origin seed or a CFIA 5289 certificate of analysis for foreign-origin seed, both of which are issued by accredited seed laboratories.

The program allows exporters to move seed over the border without having to obtain a CFIA-issued phytosanitary certificate.

Recently, a large shipment of seed (unrelated to the 5309 label program for garden and vegetable seed) was detained at the American border. The seed shipment had an accompanying CFIA 5289 Seed Analysis Certificate. APHIS has decided that the CFIA 5289 Seed Analysis Certificates will no longer be accepted; seed of foreign origin must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate.

An unintended consequence of this new policy is that CSI clients who take part in the 5309 labelling program for garden and vegetable seed are caught up in the confusion and now face huge potential hurdles in shipping their seed across the border. Due to the logistics of shipping this type of seed across the border, it places a tremendous burden on these companies to have to obtain phytosanitary certificates for every shipment. Garden and vegetable seed is of extremely high quality and value and poses a low potential risk of phytosanitary issues. Much of what is exported to the U.S. from Canada is either produced in the U.S. or has been previously imported to the U.S., exported to Canada and then re-exported.

What we are doing is encouraging CFIA to separate the 5309 label program from the rest of APHIS’s concerns about foreign seed moving into United States. They are two completely different types of export.

The larger issue, as I alluded to at the beginning, is the need for Canada’s seed industry to be in constant, close contact with our American counterparts (and other nations), and with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, to ensure government agencies understand why programs like the 5309 labelling program were initially put in place. Blanket policies that treat all seed shipments the same and require cumbersome paperwork do not allow for easy and seamless cross-border seed shipments.

With trade-related issues at the top of most newscasts, it’s a good time to shine a light on this and pave a good path as we move forward and continue to ensure we make pragmatic and effective trade policies with our neighbours.