McGuffin Presents Industry View at FWS Ginseng Meeting

February 1, 2006, Silver Spring, MD) -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) yesterday held the first of three public meetings that it has scheduled to discuss the Federal regulatory framework for the export of wild and cultivated American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Close to 100 people attended the event in Pittsburgh, PA, to hear a number of scientific presentations on the biology and genetics of American ginseng and the impact and role of harvesters on wild populations. AHPA President Michael McGuffin also spoke to present concerns that the trade has identified with FWS’ most recent rules, and on ideas for solutions to problems that affect the wild American ginseng harvest.

Since 1975 American ginseng has been listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). FWS publishes an annual “American ginseng finding” that establishes the criteria that must be met to obtain a permit to export ginseng roots. Their 1999 finding for the first time established a minimum age of 5 years for exporting wild ginseng, and the most recent 2005 finding increased that to 10 years.

“Many of the people who harvest wild ginseng have taken on a stewardship role,” commented McGuffin. “Several of the scientists here have now measured the benefit that collectors can play if they harvest plants in the proper season and make sure that the seeds are planted in optimal conditions. Just as important is that a scientific consensus is emerging that age is not the best predictor of an individual ginseng plant's ability to produce the seeds that are essential to the species’ survival, which suggests that FWS should revisit its current policies.”

McGuffin's presentation challenged the FWS assertion that wild ginseng harvest increased after the “5-year rule” was adopted in 1999 and that the average root size has declined since then. He also observed that FWS had discounted the positive role that collectors play when they plant seeds as they harvest, and proposed that solutions be developed to address other issues, such as harvest season; the destructive impact of deer; and ongoing concerns about illegal harvest, especially on public lands.

Cultivation of ginseng in woodland settings has developed throughout American ginseng's range in the last several decades. Quite a few of the attendees at yesterday’s meeting are producers of this “woodsgrown” and “wild-simulated” ginseng, and much of the public comment period was devoted to their concerns that the 2005 finding would require them to comply with the “10-year rule” for their agricultural product.

Meeting dates and locations for the two other scheduled meetings follow. These meetings will not include formal scientific or industry presentations, but will provide forums for public comment.

  • February 10, Asheville, NC
  • February 15, Indianapolis, IN

For more information, see the Federal Register notice that announced these meetings:


The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) is the only national trade association devoted solely to herbal issues. Representing the core of the botanical trade -- comprised of the finest growers, processors, manufacturers and marketers of herbal products -- AHPA’s mission is to promote the responsible commerce of herbal products. AHPA committees generate self-regulations to ensure the highest level of quality with respect to the way herbs are manufactured, labeled, and sold. Website:

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