Mop Top Virus Stirs U.S. Industry

Published online: Aug 20, 2002
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Discovery of the potato Mop Top virus in Maine and the ensuing outcry from Canada has created a hornet’s swarm in the United States.

“They (Canadian inspection officials) have been researching this on potatoes for the last 18 months, we’ve heard,” a U.S. industry spokesman who wanted to be remain unidentified, said. “Why they wouldn’t tell us—let alone help stop spread of the virus—is beyond us.”

The National Potato Council has been involved in a telephone conference call today and will issue a position statement on the matter this afternoon.

In the meantime, Canadian news reports state that the Canadian/United States border has been closed to some degree to potatoes being shipped into Canada from the United States.

Although Canada has not accepted U.S. seed potatoes into their country at any time, very few fresh potatoes are shipped north. Earlier this year Canadian inspection officials came down hard on early California potatoes being shipped into Canada.

Western U. S. growers are still miffed over the fact that several years ago Canadian seed potatoes carried late blight into the western United States.

When Canadian inspection officials discovered potato wart fungus on Prince Edward Island two years ago, the United States closed its borders to Canadian potatoes. Many in the United States industry are suspicious about the latest round in “the potato war” and believe it is “tit for tat”.

As to where the Mop Top virus came from? United States potato officials believe it probably came in on suitcase-packed seed brought from Europe by unsuspecting American gardeners.