Team:Macquarie Australia/Quarantine



To help aid the iGEM committee and also the molecular biology community, we decided to investigate the importation requirements of various countries in regards to nucleic acids (which incorporates Biobricks) and biological materials. This project arose because our kit sent from iGEM was held up in quarantine in Australia due to incorrect packaging and stringent import regulations. This resulted in a delay to the commencement of our project and we realized that this could have been avoided had all the requirements been fulfilled. However, we also realize that the requirements in Australia are particularly stringent. Therefore easy access to what these requirements are is not only an interesting exercise in comparison but would also be useful to future iGEM teams in Australia and any international company that deals in biological materials.

iGEM safety: Quarantine Protocols for various countries. International DNA code: HS 293499

iGEM safety: Quarantine Protocols for various countries

United Kingdom
For non-hazardous biological materials, packaging requirements include: leak proof primary receptacle, leak-proof secondary packaging and outer package of adequate strength. Package must be appropriately labeled. Required paperwork must also be attached.

UK Customs Link
CanadaDetermine classification. Correct packaging in accordance with the biological material classification is required. Canadian Customs Link
ChinaDetails are only available to premium members on the China customs website. No specific requirements, just a $15 tax.
Chinese Customs Link
The outermost container must be labeled with the name, address, and contact details of the person responsible for the dealings and the Import Permit for the package. The Permits cost, assessment of permit and lodgment of permit in total cost approximately $150.

Australian Customs Link
Australian Customs Link 2
United States of America (USA)
Specific Identification numbers are assigned to biological materials and products that are infectious and regulations applied. DNA and other non-infectious biological materials are generally not regulated by these documents. For non-infectious materials a primary container wrapped with parafilm with a clear label, a secondary container with a label displaying the scientific name and the contents and an outer shipping container should be used.
USA Customs Link
USA Customs Link 2

Whilst researching the regulations of importing biological materials into countries, we discovered that the information was quite difficult to find. The information was not easily accessed, which further highlights the importance of our team creating a table that includes the key information for many countries in one easily accessed location for both iGEM and the larger molecular biological community. The table above is the information we were able to find freely available, however, we realize that this table could be much more complete. To aid our process we also contacted 22 different iGEM teams worldwide to see if they had any similar experiences or knew of their specific importation requirements of biological materials into their countries.

Researching the regulations of various countries, not only was there little DNA information available, the DNA regulations found related only to genetically modified and recombinant DNA. Thus, DNA used in synthetic biological applications has not been addressed yet in any countries’ import regulations that we have investigated. As an ease of access for iGEM teams to observe the Biosafety regulations and ethics of all teams, more links or references to government gene regulation websites could be beneficial for all teams. It should perhaps be a requirement for each team to post such information on their wiki pages, rather than having the references as a safety form requirement. Every team would benefit from being made aware of at least the national requirements as regards to importing and exporting nucleic acids.

Some countries, such as Australian and the European Union, have similar regulations and terminology, so finding information is relatively easy. However, for countries which have alternative regulations and terminology, it is more difficult to investigate the implications of importing biological material (regards to synthetic biology) into other countries as they define different biological materials under different categories. This has greater ramifications in some countries and the, and can lead to the growing phenomenon of backyard science. Synthetic biology is still an emerging science, and has great potential to take technology to a new level. Great care needs to be taken to ensure that international regulations are in place to monitor its use and ensure that it is developed responsibly.


In essence, this table is the start of what can become a complete database of importation regulations of all the countries involved in iGEM. Future work can expand on this to identify the regulations of all the countries involved in iGEM. This will be advantageous to assist iGEM with posting out the kits to teams around the world without hindrance and also it will be beneficial if any teams wish to collaborate together with projects, which is such an integral idea if what iGEM is about. This could potentially be useful for the wider molecular biological community of researchers who wish to collaborate in different countries via the transfer of samples. Therefore, this initiate is an innovative method to aid the transfer of information around the world.