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Importing and handling invertebrates and micro-organisms

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Under the authority of the Plant Protection Act, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) establishes import and domestic requirements to prevent the import or spread of pestsFootnote 1 in Canada.

Some of these requirements concern the intentional import and handling of invertebrates and micro-organisms that have the potential to cause harm to plant health in Canada, including:

The import and domestic requirements specific to invertebrates and micro-organisms are provided in the CFIA directives D-12-02 and D-12-03, respectively:

These requirements apply no matter the purpose for wanting to import or handle these organisms, such as for:

Whatever your purpose, authorization from the CFIA may be required before you import or undertake any other activitiesFootnote 2 in respect of invertebrates or micro-organisms.

When CFIA authorization is requiredFootnote 3

The CFIA issues plant protection import permits and domestic written authorizations to allow the conduct of activities which are otherwise prohibited or restricted. These authorizations specify conditions to prevent harm to plant health in Canada. The CFIA determines the need for and, as applicable, the degree of requirements based on an assessment of risks to plant healthFootnote 4.

With respect of invertebrates and micro-organisms, authorization from the CFIA is required when:

To allow a determination to be made and the issuance of an authorization, an application must be presented to the CFIA unless the circumstances fall into 1 of the categories described below.

When authorization is not required

You are not required to apply for an authorization in any of the following situations:

Applying for an authorization

The application process varies depending on whether it is an import or domestic request:

import: requests should be made using the Application for permit to import plants and other things under the Plant Protection Act (CFIA/ACIA 5256). Information on where to send completed applications is included in the form.

domestic: requests should be made using the Application for a written authorization to conduct activities on plant pests (CFIA/ACIA 5851). Information on where to send completed applications is included in the form.

Note: in either case, the organisms concerned must be specified in the application by their full scientific name (genus and species).

Outcome of the application process

Based on the review and assessment of an application for an authorization in respect of an invertebrate or micro-organism, the decision to issue the authorization may depend on the purpose of the proposal and the need for containment.


Authorizations regarding invertebrates or micro-organisms that require plant pest containment are only issued if activities are conducted for 1 of the following purposes: scientific research, educational, processing, industrial or exhibitionFootnote 6. In these cases, the CFIA will not authorize the proposed activities for any other purpose, including for commercial purposes or for personal use.


Certain invertebrates and micro-organisms require the authorization holder to maintain the organisms in a plant pest containment (PPC) facility. The containment level that may be required by the CFIA ranges from the lowest PPC-1 or PPC-Display levels to the highest PPC-3 level.

The PPC levels, along with their physical and operational requirements, are described in the CFIA's Containment Standards for Facilities Handling Plant Pests. A level specific to display facilities, PPC-Display, is described in the Addendum for containment zones where low-risk exotic invertebrates are displayed.

Authorizations will be issued only if the facility has a valid status with the CFIA at the appropriate PPC levelFootnote 7. If not, the CFIA communicates with the applicant to commence a facility PPC verification or certification process.


Import permits and domestic written authorization define the parameters of what is and what is not allowed with respect to the import or handling of invertebrates and micro-organisms.

In addition to specifying the regulated organisms, authorizations may specify the origin of the organisms, the exporter or supplier, as well as the destination or containment facility.

Conditions and the validity period are also specified in authorizations, both which are more fully treated below.


Import permits and domestic written authorizations may specify conditions necessary to prevent the introduction or spread of plant pests in Canada. Conditions may set out requirements related to containment, shipping or moving organisms or infested materials, identity and purity of organisms, notification obligations and decontamination.

It is important to be familiar with conditions. Failure to meet a condition may result in the issuance of an administrative monetary penalty or prosecution. The CFIA has various means to generate, monitor and assess compliance and to respond to non-compliance. Consult the CFIA's Compliance and Enforcement Policy to learn more about the CFIA's approach to compliance management.

Validity period

Authorizations specify a validity period, normally ranging from 1 to 3 years depending on the circumstances. In the case of import permits and domestic written authorizations for obtaining organisms from within Canada, multiple shipments of organisms may be obtained within this timeframe (unless restrictions are specified in the authorization).

Note: conditions do not expire at the end of the validity period. As long as you continue to possess or handle viable specimens of the organisms concerned you must comply with the conditions.


Notices to industry


For additional information on plant protection requirements that apply to the intentional import and handling of invertebrates and micro-organisms, contact your local CFIA inspection office.

For assistance in finding or interpreting import requirements listed in AIRS, for information regarding fees associated with imported product, or for guidance on the import document submission and release process, you may contact the CFIA's National Import Service Centre.

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