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FWS Restores 5-Year Minimum Age for Exported American Ginseng

(Silver Spring, MD, June 9, 2006) -- The US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has just announced that the export of wild American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) roots that are at least 5 years old “will not be detrimental to the survival of the species,” and so will be allowed to be exported from states that maintain ginseng programs during the next three harvest seasons (2006–2008). This rule, contained in FWS’ issuance of its 2006 wild American ginseng findings, reestablishes the 5-year rule which had been in place since 1999 but which was set aside last year by a requirement that limited export to plants of at least 10 years of age.

The establishment of the 10-year rule last August caught the ginseng trade off guard, and was followed by complaints that it had been developed without adequate input from all stakeholders. The ensuing outcry led the agency to hold four public meetings to “gather information from the public in preparation of our 2006 findings on the export of American ginseng roots.” Those meetings elicited a flood of comments from harvesters, growers, and exporters, and provided an opportunity for AHPA President Michael McGuffin to make a presentation that challenged some of the assumption that had gone into the 2005 findings.

“Our concerns with the 10-year rule were centered on errors in some of the calculations used by FWS, and on the absence of any meaningful consideration of the positive impact that can come from harvesters who are also acting as ginseng stewards by replanting mature seeds,” said McGuffin. “The 2006 findings are founded on more accurate information, and we are pleased that FWS was willing to solicit comment and put it to good use.”

To follow up on the public meetings earlier this year, AHPA has developed drafts of brochures on good stewardship harvest practices. FWS acknowledged in the 2006 findings note that it is “working with the American Herbal Products Association and other stakeholders” in the development of these brochures, “to reach out to diggers to encourage good stewardship practices for harvesting wild ginseng, and to inform them of current State and Federal requirements.”

FWS’ annual wild American ginseng findings are prepared to address the issuance of permits under the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Since 1975 American ginseng has been listed in CITES Appendix II — a species that is not necessarily now threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is closely controlled. In order for Appendix II-listed species to enter into international trade, a determination must be made by the “scientific authority” in the country of origin that any harvest is both legally obtained and is not detrimental to the survival of the species. The Division of Scientific Authority at FWS serves in this role for the United States.

The 2006 wild American ginseng findings can be found at A report on recommendations from the first public meeting held this past February are posted on the FWS website (, and include links to presentations made by academics and industry.


The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) represents 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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