Sample Retention Requirements for Authorized Importers

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The authorized importer (AI) program was designed to delegate seed import release decisions to accredited industry personnel. Seed establishments that are registered pursuant to section 81.1 of the Seeds Regulations can import seed on minimum documentation and are responsible for reporting such imports to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Seed import release agents (SIRAs) are accredited individuals responsible for making seed import conformity assessments based on foreign seed analysis certificates.

The AI program is modelled on the approved conditioner (AC) program. The AC program allows industry to sample, test, grade and label seed with a Canada pedigreed grade name and requires detailed records and samples to ascertain that all of the requirements for seed certification have been satisfied. An AC is expected to perform its activities, maintain records and retain samples in a similar manner as would the CFIA if it were delivering these seed certification services.

Where seed is imported to a location that is not an AI, the CFIA is responsible for import conformity assessment. This is accomplished through review of all mandatory documents (signed import declaration, seed analysis certificate) and occasional sampling and testing of imported seed lots.

If ACs must operate as CFIA would operate when seed is certified, then it should be sufficient that AIs do likewise. This would seem to indicate that an AI should not have to retain a sample of every seed lot imported, as CFIA does not do so, but instead rely on monitoring a portion of seed imports.

Interpretation

Subsection 93(3) of the Seeds Regulations states that:

"every operator shall maintain records and samples ... to ascertain the status and grade of every seed lot handled by the establishment for a period of one year after the final disposition of the seed lot and, in the case of Foundation and Registered status seed, for a period of two years ..."

Status, with respect to seed in Canada, is most often used in reference to its "pedigreed status". The specific reference to Foundation and Registered status seed infers that this is the case here, and since "pedigreed status" cannot be determined from a sample it must be assumed that the sample is in reference to the grade (seed quality) only.

Therefore, where an AI imports pedigreed seed and labels that seed with a Canada pedigreed grade name or is responsible for ensuring that the seed is so labelled, an officially-recognized sample shall be drawn and retained for the specific period stated in subsection 93(3).

However, since all flower seeds, most herb seeds and many vegetable seeds are not labelled and sold in Canada with a grade name, there is no requirement for an AI operator to retain records and samples to "ascertain the ... grade" of such seed.

Further, as seed lots of 500 g or less, in the case of small-seeded species, and seed lots of 5 kg or less, in the case of large-seeded species, are exempt from the declaration and seed analysis certificate requirements of the Seeds Regulations, it is not necessary for an AI operator to retain such information or samples in these cases.

Additionally, as flower seeds, herb seed lots of 5 kg or less, ginseng seed, onion and garlic sets and tree and shrub seeds are not required to have a seed analysis certificate for import purposes, it is not required by an AI either.

Sampling small lots/containers

In many cases, imported seed lots of flowers, herbs and vegetables are relatively small (less than 100 kg). The seed may be in small packages or in larger containers for packaging in Canada. When sampling seed lots of 100 kg or less that are small packages, it is only necessary to randomly select five packages from the lot.

Conclusion

The regulatory status of an imported seed lot is determined by the actual quality of the seed lot, the accompanying documentation, whether an import release decision has been made and, in the case of an import by an AI, whether the import has been reported to the CFIA.

In summary, an AI is not expected to retain samples for every seed lot that it imports. However, if an AI sells seed, it must keep complete records to ascertain the regulatory status of the seed and if seed is graded with a Canada pedigreed grade name a sample must be retained.

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