Changes to the CFIA’s weed seed classifications

A new Weed Seed Order listing prohibited species takes effect November 1

The Canadian seed trade is being reminded to watch for changes to the CFIA’s Weed Seed Order (WSO), which specifies which species are allowable in pedigreed seed.

“When we are purchasing seed at a time when the new WSO is coming into effect, it is best to mention in your purchasing contracts that the product you are accepting will meet the new WSO. Most exporters will be aware of the changes as we are consulting with them but that way you have that extra layer of protection,” Anita Gilmer, acting national manager of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and senior specialist told the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association’s annual general meeting in early July.

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The CFIA regulates the import, export and sale of seed through the Seeds Act via the WSO in hopes of preventing new weed species from being introduced into Canada.

The new WSO will take effect on November 1, 2016. The previous version was enacted in 2005 and was thought by industry to be out of date. The CFIA began consultations in 2007 with the goal of reclassifying species that were incorrectly listed and adding new species of concern.


Eleven species have been moved from the WSO’s prohibited noxious — class one to primary noxious — class two.

“Those species include poison hemlock, jimsonweed, leafy spurge, the hoary cresses, red barista, Russian knapweed, horse nettle, nodding thistle and Johnson grass,” Gilmer said.

“These species were considered too widespread to be listed as prohibited noxious, and we are vulnerable internationally if we are regulating species higher on import than we do domestically.”

The new Weed Seed Order also sees 17 species added to the prohibited noxious list.

“It has been determined that these species, if established in Canada, would have extensive repercussions. For these reasons, these additions have been made to the class one prohibited noxious list,” Gilmer said.

The 17 new species include slender foxtail, yellow bluestem, silver beardgrass, Iberian starthistle, squarrose knapweed, Paterson’s curse, British yellowhead, spring milletgrass, dallis grass, African-rue, devil’s-tail tearthumb, kudzu, South African ragwort, Madagascar ragwort, silverleaf nightshade, medusahead rye and Syrian bean-caper.

Camelina and chicory have been removed from the WSO entirely.

“Camelina was previously on WSO 2005 and it has been removed from WSO 2016 through a number of consultations. As many are aware, camelina is more of a crop than it is a weed in today’s agricultural systems,” Gilmer said.

Watch imports

She said the most common places where prohibited species have been found in the past have been in combines and car parts coming across the border and in organic grain from India or China.

If one of the prohibited species is found in Canada, CFIA may invoke the Plant Protection Act to mitigate risks.

“The CFIA inspector would determine the appropriate risk mitigation and create a response plan in consultation with CFIA staff and the affected stakeholders,” Gilmer said. “Slender foxtail was detected in a seed lot in Manitoba and it is in the situation where the CFIA inspector is determining the risk and managing the situation.”

Tools for adaption

The Canadian Seed Analysts Association is hosting workshops throughout the summer for accredited analysts to become familiar with the changes.

In addition, CFIA has developed an online database, which includes fact sheets to help in identifying seeds of the weed species.

“We have never had a digital repertoire of photos like this. The Saskatoon lab has been very busy over the last while preparing all of the pictures that will fill this database,” Gilmer said.

“There is a lot of good information coming up on the CFIA website,” said Roy van Wyk, executive director of the Canadian Seed Institute (CSI), the national group charged with being the single point of contact for all seed establishments, labs, operators and graders who are seeking registration, licensing or accreditation.

“They have a number of wonderful fact sheets up there now with really high-resolution pictures and background on some of these weeds. I definitely think it is worth the visit,” van Wyk said.

To see the new fact sheets, visit the CFIA website.

Links to the new WSO and related documents can be found on the CSI website

About the author


Jennifer Paige

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.



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