Environmental, Health and Safety Services

Plant Research

  • The term "plant" includes, but is not limited to mosses, liverworts, macroscopic algae, as well as vascular plants (crop, forest, weed and ornamental species).
  • Non-recombinant plant research, in the greenhouse or in the field, which involves no plant pathogens, pesticides, herbicides, toxins, or releases of non-native/noxious species, is not generally subject to institutional oversight or federal regulation.
  • Three federal agencies regulate genetically engineered plants:
    1. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – provides safety for agriculture and the environment
    2. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – provides safety for the environment
    3. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – provides safety for food and feed use
  • The Centers for Disease Control and the USDA – APHIS are involved in regulating work on plant pathogens/toxins that are a biosecurity concern (could be used as biological weapons).
  • Consult with the appropriate federal agencies early in the planning stages of a plant research project to receive guidance.
  • VT Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) oversight is required for research involving:
    • transgenic /genetically modified plants
    • plant toxins
    • microorganisms or agents known to cause/ associated with plant disease (viroids, virusoids, viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, arthropods, nematodes, etc.)
  • Protocols for research projects involving these materials must be submitted to the IBC for review and approval, and for periodic renewal.
  • People must complete IBC-required training before beginning research work, and they must stay current with IBC-required training thereafter.
Primary Hazards In Plant ResearchSafety Considerations In Plant Research
Loss of containment and release of infected or transgenic plant material or plant-associated organisms.
  • Ensure proper containment and management of plant pathogens or recombinant plant/ plant-related material using the guidelines found in A Practical Guide to Containment -- Plant Biosafety in Research Greenhouses.
  • Follow plant biosafety levels criteria as outlined in the NIH Guidelines (containment specifications, engineering controls, Personal Protective Equipment, good work practices, facilities features).

Plant Biosafety Levels (BSL-P) for Greenhouse Research

  • See 'Biosafety Levels' in this website’s topic list.

Guidance and Further Information: