International border crossings all have one thing in common: paperwork and plenty of government officials on the spot to make certain everything about that paperwork is complete and correct. Flying between the United States and Canada is usually a straight forward process. Present your passport, answer a few simple questions and those border guards are happy to send you on your way. No one really cares if your passport photo is the worst ever —your passport is your identification.
For seeds to cross the border between the United States and Canada they also must be accompanied by the proper paperwork — not a passport per se, but a seed test certificate issued by an accredited seed testing laboratory, which uses accepted testing procedures. My passport was issued by the U.S. Department of State. Seed test certificates for seed crossing the U.S.–Canadian border are issued by laboratories accredited by the Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA), the Society of Commercial Seed Technologists (SCST), and the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada (CSAAC). Other parts of the world use the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA).
Throughout time, these three North American organizations have tried hard to “harmonize” their rules, meaning they have tried to keep them similar as to make life easier for everyone. Although the Canadian methods are remarkably similar to the rules used in the United States, the purity amount as well as how the test is reported is very important for a seed lot to be able to cross from the United States into Canada. Enough seed must be provided to the seed lab to satisfy the quantity requirement specified by Canadian Methods and Procedures, the standard operating procedure followed by the CSAAC. The required amount varies depending on the species being tested.
It is the seed shipper’s responsibility to submit the correct amount of seed for testing and to request the correct tests. If in doubt, ask your seed testing lab before submitting a sample. Providing the wrong amount of seed to be tested will cause one of those government officials to become very unhappy, refuse your certificate, and not allow your seed to enter Canada.