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An introduction to scientific authorisations

Scientific authorisations, previously known as plant health licences, are issued by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) (for England) and on behalf of the Welsh Government (for Wales) to allow the import, keeping and movement between quarantine stations/confinement facilities in England and Wales (E&W), of material normally prohibited entry into England and Wales by plant health legislation. Scientific authorisations are not intended for commercial ventures, and as such a scientific authorisation will only be issued if the applicant is using the specified material for:

  • official testing
  • scientific research
  • educational purposes
  • trials
  • testing new varieties of plants (varietal selection)
  • breeding

Scientific authorisations can be issued in two forms, one which allows specified pests/material to be imported from outside E&W and one which only allows specified pests and material to be obtained from other quarantine stations/confinement facilities in E&W. Authorisations which allow imports will also have a ‘Letter of Authority’ (LoA) attached, and it is this letter which facilitates the import of specified material. See layout of authorisations for more details.

Included in this guidance are details on what requires a scientific authorisation to be imported, kept or moved, the authorisation process in E&W, the mitigations that should be put in place to contain the risk when working with these specified materials and how an applicant imports, moves and exports authorised material.

Scientific authorisations in Scotland & Northern Ireland are not the responsibility of Defra, Welsh Government or APHA and requests for information on their arrangements should be directed to the relevant authority.


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