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Import and release of biological control agents into Canada

Biological control agents are insects, mites, nematodes and other organisms used to control weeds, insects and other plant pests. Despite the projected benefits for managing pests, they can present a risk to the environment by potentially being pests or carriers of pests.

To prevent direct or indirect harm to plant health that may result from using biological control agents, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) sets requirements under the Plant Protection Act that govern their import, handling and release in Canada. These requirements are provided in the CFIA's policy directive D-12-02: Import Requirements for Potentially Injurious Organisms (Other than Plants) to Prevent the Importation of Plant Pests in Canada.

First release of non-indigenous biological control agents

Before a biological control agent can be released into the Canadian environment for the first time, a petition must be submitted to the CFIA requesting its release. The petition must include information about the safety of the organism. For guidance, please see the resources listed below.

Petitions are reviewed by a Biological Control Review Committee, which is coordinated by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The committee includes taxonomists, ecologists and other scientists from the federal and provincial governments and Canadian universities.

After the petition is reviewed by the committee, a recommendation is made and considered by the CFIA in its final assessment. The CFIA then communicates its decision to the petitioner.

The following figure illustrates the petition review and assessment process:

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Picture - Petition review and assessment process. Description follows.

Description of figure - Petition review and assessment process


  • IASDP = Invasive Alien Species and Domestic Programs Section
  • PHRA = Plant Health Risk Assessment Unit
  • BCRC = Biological Control Review Committee

Petition review and assessment process

  • Petitioner sends petition to Chief Plant Health Officer (
  • IASDP reviews petition to determine if it is complete and within CFIA's mandate under the Plant Protection Act
  • If outside mandate, IASDP contacts petitioner to advise that the petition is not required
  • If petition is incomplete, IASDP contacts petitioner to advise that petition must be resubmitted
  • If petition is complete, IASDP consults with PHRA to identify a CFIA representative for the BCRC review process
  • IASDP forwards petition to the Chair of BCRC for review, and identifies the CFIA participant
  • Chair of BCRC forwards BCRC's assessments and recommendations to IASDP
  • IASDP reviews BCRC's assessments and recommendations, in consultation with PHRA as required
  • IASDP sends its recommendation to Chief Plant Health Officer
  • Chief Plant Health Officer communicates the CFIA's decision to the petitioner

The petition process is not required for biological control agents from commercial sources that have already been approved by the CFIA. These Biological Control Agents From Commercial Sources are listed in section 5 of appendix 1 to D-12-02. A plant protection import permit is required to import these approved agents. A permit may be requested using the Application for Permit to Import Plants and Other Things under the Plant Protection Act.

Note: When requesting to import predatory mites, importers must specify on their application the prey mites used as a food source for this biological control agent.


Information and guidance on the petition process are available in:

Additional Information

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