Plant-related activities

Resources for biosafety

Review requirements

In WSU labs, fields, and greenhouses, the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) oversees all plant-related activities that include potentially biohazardous materials or r/sNA molecules (including recombinant microorganisms or recombinant insects in plants). The committee’s oversight protects the researcher conducting the study, the environment, the public, and the institution.

Obtain IBC review before starting work

Oversight is required by National Institutes of Health guidelines. It ensures that activities comply with federal, national, regional, local, and institutional regulations and guidelines.

The IBC must review all WSU plant-related activities involving potentially biohazardous materials or r/sNA before work can begin.

If you are an investigator, complete the appropriate forms  to initiate the review process.

Note: Plant growth chambers within facilities (e.g., laboratories or greenhouses) do not require separate inspection checklists but should be identified on the BAF in section 2H.

Technologies requiring IBC oversight

If your research uses any of the following technologies, please complete the relevant forms to seek IBC review.

Recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules (r/sNA)

r/sNA molecules are constructed outside of living cells. They are made by joining nucleic acid segments (natural or synthetic) to RNA or DNA molecules that can replicate within a living cell. They may also result from replication of previously constructed recombinant molecules.


A cell, group of cells, or organism that is descended from and genetically identical to a single common ancestor, such as a bacterial colony whose members arose from a single original cell. Cloning also includes a DNA or RNA sequence, such as a gene, that is transferred from one organism to another and replicated by genetic engineering techniques.

Organisms that descended asexually from a single ancestor—such as a natural, wild, unmodified plant produced by layering or budding—are exempt from IBC oversight.

Transgenic plants

A plant whose genome has been altered by the transfer of a gene or genes from another species or breed. Transgenic organisms are created for research to help determine the function of the inserted gene or are used to produce a desired substance.

The IBC also oversees deregulated transgenic items planted in WSU fields or planted by WSU employees at other sites. (Refer to OGRD Memo 13 [pdf].) This oversight aims to:

  • Protect plant health
  • Address concerns of genetic purity among local vegetation and crops
  • Protect the public and environment from organisms and other biohazardous material that may pose a risk to plant health and or the environment.

Genetic engineering

The process in which genes or other genetic elements from one or more organisms are inserted into the genetic material of a second organism using molecular biology methods. Moving a new gene or genes in this way allows researchers to introduce useful new traits into an organism from individuals of the same species or from unrelated species.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)

An organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology.

Gene interchange

Accidental dispersal of biologically sensitive material (such as transgenic pollen and seed) in an unplanned, uncontrolled, and accidental manner. You must notify the IBC if gene interchange occurs.

Regulations and permits


Biosafety regulations at the federal, state, and institutional levels govern plant-related research activities.

Containment guidelines

Arthropod Containment Guidelines
American Committee of Medical Entomology

Containment Guidelines for Nonindigenous Phytophagous Arthropods and Their Parasitoids and Predators

A Practical Guide to Containment: Plant Biosafety in Research Greenhouses (pdf)
Information Systems for Biotechnology


Centers for Disease Control
  • Import Permit Program
    Regulating the importation of infectious biological agents, infectious substances, and vectors of human disease into the United States
  • ePermits
    Use this online system to:


    • Apply for import /interstate movement/transit/release permits
    • Track applications
    • Apply for renewals and amendments
    • Receive copies of your permits
  • Plant health import permits
    Required for the importation, transit, domestic movement, and environmental release of organisms that impact plants, and for the importation and transit of plants and plant products under authority of the Plant Protection and Honeybee Acts
  • Permits, notifications, and petitions
    For genetically engineered organisms
U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security
  • Commerce Control List
    Use to determine whether the item you intend to export has a specific Export Control Classification Number (ECCN): an alpha-numeric code that describes the item and indicates licensing requirements.