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


  • Plant Protection Division (PPD)
  • Invasive Alien Species and Domestic Programs Section (IASDP)
  • Regulatory Science Experts (RSEs): includes CFIA Plant and Biotechnology Risk Assessors, Plant Health Risk Assessors, Ottawa Plant Laboratory
  • Biological Control Review Committee (BCRC)
  • Biological Control Agents (BCAs)

Petition review and assessment process

  • Petitioner sends petition to the PPD Director
  • IASDP reviews petition to determine if it is complete and aligned with Plant and Health Program
  • If the petition is incomplete IASDP contacts petitioner to advise them that petitions must be resubmitted
  • If the petition is complete IASDP forwards petition to the Chair of DCRC for review (< 6 weeks)
  • Chair of BCRC forwards the BCRC's recommendations to the IASDP who then send it to RSEs for final review
  • RSEs review the petition and BCRC recommendations and provide final assessment to IASDP
  • IASDP sends recommendation to PPD Director (draft letter)
  • PPD Director reviews, signs and sends a letter with supporting document (if needed) to petitioner (cc: RSEs and Chair of BCRC)

If BCA is approved, list of approved BCAs is updated by IASDP

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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