Monday, July 02, 2007

Importing Orchid Plants - New CITES Rules

To all interested in the subject of Orchid species and hybrids as imports or exports,
Recent changes in CITES requirements have made itdifficult for nurseries, and hobbyists alike tonot only import plants from foreign countriesdirectly but even acquire them from nurseries inthe country in which hobbyists and professional growers live.
In the US for example the requirements are that anursery must now have a master permit. Everyplant to be exported whether it is a species orhybrid must be approved by the US Fish andWildlife authorities with information on thepropagation methods (whether from seed, cuttingsor cloning techniques) if not then whom theplants were purchased from with receipts, potsizes of plants in stock, annual production,number of plants to be exported each year,whether parental stock is maintained and howmany, from seed or cuttings etc. and number of years in production.
Imagine filling out such a permit (in my case ittook 250 hours) and then imagine it taking 9months to a year to get it. The idea is that onceyou get this permit single issue copies arepurchased in advance and the nursery owner canfill them out when orders are received and shipthem out rather quickly compared to the oldsystem of waiting 3-6 months for a single usepermit. In the mean time orders cannot beprocessed and commercial growers are put insituation of economic hardship. Adding any newplants to your permit requires all the samedetailed information, costs a lot and there is noguarantee that the permits will arrive in atimely manner. Several US growers have given upon exports and many more will follow suit.
Hybrids have become another problem, as one hasto either be approved for specific hybrids on themaster permit or have to be approved for specificspecies that make up the hybrid. At the momentyou have to list on your permit the species thatmake up the hybrids that you want to export. Thistakes a great deal of time and is reallycounterproductive. It often requires 20 to 35hours to complete a permit. The US Fish andWildlife service has come up with a way ofamending your permit to accept hybrids but itstill requires reporting and is limited to certain hybrids.
The various countries management authorities andCITES officials are, I believe unaware of thegreat advances in the laboratory production oforchids that have taken place within the past fewyears. Nurseries are now able to reproduce inreasonable numbers those plants that were onceconsidered difficult or even impossible toproduce. The continued over-regulation ofartificially propagated plants and the nurseriesthat produce them is in my opinion a completewaste of CITES resources. The entire reason CITESwas created in the first place was to protectwild populations of living organisms that werethreatened by trade. This is what it says in thefirst paragraph on<> home page,?CITES (the Convention on International Trade inEndangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is aninternational agreement between governments. Itsaim is to ensure that international trade inspecimens of wild animals and plants does notthreaten their survival.? If anything the rapidartificial production and propagation of orchidplants helps to ensure that wild stock willremain where it is. Many of our nurseries arereally no longer trading in wild stock at all. Why over-regulate it?
Recent examples of how things have changed can befound in PERU where no wild collecting for exportis allowed. All plants must now be produced atthe approved nurseries from seed or division ofestablished stock. Phragmipedium kovachii wouldnever have been allowed for export legally exceptfor the work of serious nursery owners and thePeruvian government. By allowing a few plants tobe collected and used for seed propagation viatissue culture these plants are now all over theworld and the demand for wild plants no longerexists. Other countries like Ecuador and Brazil are following suit.

If continued restriction and over-regulationcontinues in its present state there will be lessand less plants available and eventually thehobby itself will be threatened. Orchid Societiesmemberships would begin to decline, as therewould be no new plant material for hobbyists tobe interested in. Nurseries interested in growingand exporting species or hybrids have alreadydeclined in The US and other parts of the globe.The process or acquiring export permits hasbecome so onerous that some nurseries have chosento give up their export business. Many withoutthe ability to export will not survive.
There is an important synergy between OrchidSocieties, hobbyists and commercial growers.Without commercial growers there would be fewhobbyists. Without hobbyists there would be noorchid societies. The articles written about neworchid species or hybrids would fall on deaf earsif the plants being written about were notavailable to hobbyists in a legal, artificiallypropagated manner. We are all interdependent onone another and it would be good if we spoke with one harmonized voice.
Nurseries (world-wide) are experiencingtightening restrictions and it would seem thatCITES officials want a reduction in trade of any kind.
No one can argue with the good intentions ofCITES namely the protection of species in thewild. No one can argue that each country?sdepartment of agriculture has the important jobof controlling the introduction of new pests anddiseases through the importation of plants. Theseare not issues that nursery owners havecontentions with. What we are concerned about andwhat we hope Orchid Societies and hobbyists wouldshow their concern with is a movement withinCITES in what many growers feel is the wrongdirection and that is the increasing regulationand control in the trade of truly artificially propagated plants.It is time for change regarding trade of Orchidsand other plants that are truly artificiallypropagated. The direction of this reform wouldinclude a radical change in the way that Orchids are regulated in trade.
My proposal is simple in concept:
1.Protect all wild orchids by elevating the wholegroup to appendix 1 status. 100 years ago therewere 1.5 billion people on the planet. Todaythere are some 6.5 billion and in a little morethan 40 years that number will grow to over 9billion people demanding land and timber.Tropical rainforests are now estimated to befalling at the rate of 5 acres per 2.4 seconds.Protecting all orchids to the highest level willbe required sooner or later. Why not make the change now?
2.Certify nurseries that are truly growing, orbuying for resale orchids that are artificiallypropagated. Let those certified nurseries tradefreely with a certification number or stamp whichwould be recognized and accepted by all signatorymembers of the CITES treaty. Nurseries that arealready certified for export would automaticallybe given the Certification stamp or number toallow free trade of the plants they produce or trade in.
These changes include not allowing any wildcollection for export of any Orchid plants unless for the following reasons:
1. A nursery in the country of origin wouldwant to add a small number of wild plants totheir breeding stock say 5 ?12 plants of anygiven species. These wild collected plants wouldhave to have approval and supervision from thecountry of origin management authorities and thatthe collection of said plants would not provedetrimental to the wild population. These plantscould not be exported but used only for breedingstock. Only seedlings or mature plants derived from seed could be exported.
2. In the case of a rescue operation whereorchid plants are going to be destroyed due todevelopment the plants could be collected withgovernment permission given to approved nurseriesin the country of origin. Once the plants arecollected they could not be sold for a period of2-3 years when the plant would then becomeestablished and would have grown out of thejungle growth. These plants would then trade on aCITES permit as rescued and would require thatdistinction on the plant labels and any CITES orPHYTO paperwork with actual import permit numbersand dates along with the ?rescued? designation.These requirements would only apply to theoriginal export from the country of origin, afterthat the plants could be traded without permitsbut would require that only CITES certifiednurseries could trade or re-export them.
3. Appendix I, or Appendix II? Why have 2 permits? Giving all wildorchid plants (only) Appendix 1 status wouldeliminate the need for export permits for artprop plants at all as wild plants would becompletely protected from collecting andreselling except by the processes outlined above.This would in effect remove truly art prop plantsfrom the treaty except for the certification ofthe nursery in question and the plants itproduces or trades in from other certified nurseries.
Flasked seedlings:
There is a lot of confusion about flasked Orchidseedlings and what is legal and what is not. TheCITES treaty clearly states that any and allorchid seedlings traded in vitro are exempt fromCITES regulations as long as a phyto accompaniesthem. Different countries have differentinterpretations as to what this means. The US forinstance will allow flasked seedlings of anyorchids into the country but once they come outof flasks one must be able to prove that theparents were legal. This is an impossible taskand flawed in terms of legality. If illegalaliens come into the US and have a child thatchild is an automatic US citizen. Plants IN VITROshould be considered in the same light. They arein the final definition of the treatyArtificially propagated plants. I am notcondoning the illegal collecting of wild orchidplants for the purpose of exporting seedlings inflask, I am just saying that it is impossible tocontrol or regulate the movement of seedlings inflask under the present definitions of the treaty.

Certified nursery proposal in need of your help.
The biggest change I would like to propose isthat nurseries be certified for export ofArtificially propagated plants and that thisCertification would allow Orchid plants soproduced to be traded without a formalcomplicated, highly detailed permit but justrequire a CITES nursery certificate number orstamp in a CITES permits place. The program wouldstill be under CITES control but the need forlengthy accounting for any of the plants producedshould be greatly reduced or better yeteliminated. Nurseries that have been dealing withmanagement authorities for many years should havean easy transition into the new process.Nurseries that are applying for a newcertification would have to go through acertification process in the beginning but as anursery?s inventory grows by propagation oracquisition (this would be for art prop materialonly as wild collecting would no longer beallowed) there would be no need to keep reportingall of the art prop stock acquired, bred ordivided to the management authorities.
My worldwide goal is for interested orchidgrowers whether hobbyist or commercial and Orchidsocieties to consider these proposed changes inthe treaty, make adjustments if necessary, gain aconsensus, sign documents of support for thechanges and petition the CITES managementauthorities within each regulated country as wellas the responsible CITES officials inSwitzerland. If we can do this in significantnumbers than the CITES officials should respondand help create positive change.
I would appreciate it very much if interestedparties would comment on my ideas and at somepoint I would like to present the proposal to theproper officials here in the US and Switzerland.
If you agree with the above plan I need a letterof support by e-mail. If you would like to debatethese ideas it is best done on the forums where I have posted this proposal.