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Containment Standards for Facilities Handling Plant Pests
1.0 Introduction

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1.1 Scope

This document describes the minimum acceptable physical and operational requirements for facilitiesFootnote 1 that work with plant pestsFootnote 2 other than weeds, soilFootnote 3, genetically modified plants and arthropod biological controlFootnote 4 agents.

Some of the information presented in these standards may be useful for the containment of biocontrol arthropods. However, the North American Plant Protection Organization's Regional Standard for Phytosanitary Measures (RSPM) #22, entitled Guidelines for the Construction and Operation of a Containment Facility for Insects and Mites used as Biological Control Agents takes precedence over the present document for the containment of biological control arthropods.

This document is intended as a resource for Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) staff and for other persons who grow, raise, culture or produce anything that is a pest or is infected or infested with a pest. It provides guidance on the operation of plant pest containment facilities such as laboratories, greenhouses and screenhouses. Compliance with these standards and with documents such as Import Permits will help to ensure that economically and environmentally significant plant pests do not inadvertently escape into the environment and become established in Canada.

1.2 Background

The Containment Standards for Veterinary Facilities, published in 1996 by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, provides guidance for those who design, build, operate or work in laboratories in which animal pathogens are handled. The Laboratory Biosafety Guidelines, 3rd Edition, published in 2004 by Public Health Agency of Canada, provide similar guidance for those involved with laboratories in which human pathogens are handled. Neither of these two documents addresses the containment of plant pests.

Plant pests almost never infect or infest healthy people, and they therefore pose little direct risk to laboratory personnel. Some can, however, pose a significant threat to agricultural production, forests and natural environments. As a result, it is important that personnel working with plant pests and the facilities housing these organisms take steps to prevent the accidental escape of potentially damaging pests into the environment. The level of containment required to prevent escapes will depend on specific pest biology and the impact that an escape might have on the Canadian environment.

Most countries, including Canada, have developed regulations to prevent the introduction and spread of economically and environmentally significant plant pests. Canada's Plant Protection Act serves to protect plant life and the agricultural and forestry sectors of the Canadian economy by preventing the importation, exportation and spread of pests, and by controlling or eradicating pests in Canada. The Plant Protection Act and Regulations give the CFIA the authority to prohibit or restrict the movement into, within, and out of CanadaFootnote 5 of any plant pest or other thing that is or could be infested with a pest, or is or could be a biological obstacle to the control of a plant pest. The Act also provides other authorities such as inspection powers.

Researchers frequently undertake studies on the biology, ecology, detection, identification, control and eradication of plant pests. Additionally, scientists often study exotic beneficial organisms to determine whether they have potential as biological control agents. Persons wishing to import plant pests or potential biological control agents must apply to the CFIA for a Permit to ImportFootnote 6. For first-time introductions of foreign biological control agents, a full petition meeting the standards of the North American Plant Protection OrganizationFootnote 7 (NAPPO) must be submitted to the CFIA, requesting authority to import and release the agent into the environment. The petition must contain detailed information on the agent's biology and ecology obtained through careful scientific survey and/or experimentation. Risks associated with each importation are assessed by regulatory scientists who determine whether the importation should be allowed or should be prohibited or restricted. Where importation is restricted, the CFIA will stipulate import conditions designed to mitigate pest risks, and site visits may be conducted by CFIA inspectors to verify that the proposed facilities and operational procedures are appropriate for the containment of imported pests.

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