Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the required qualifications of personnel and the laboratory staff of the ISTA accredited laboratories?
It is the responsibility of the laboratory to hire qualified personnel and to provide further training. ISTA does not request any specific qualification but is expecting that the qualification requirements of the laboratory are defined and followed. It must be ensured that the laboratory samples and tests in accordance with the ISTA Accreditation Standard and the ISTA Rules. Results must be accurate, reliable and reproducible. ISTA offers from time to time workshops, where participants can get more information and experience.
2. Are the conditions for accreditation the same for a government institution, a private independent or a company laboratory?
The conditions and requirements for laboratory accreditation are the same for all laboratory members. In essence, a laboratory has to adhere to the ISTA Accreditation Standard, the ISTA Rules for Seed Testing, have competent staff and appropriate equipment and demonstrate its independence of judgement and integrity in relation to sampling and testing. In practice, a laboratory that is not part of the public sector is bound to have more potentially critical interactions and connections to entities that might have an interest in exerting undue influence on the reported results of analysis. This is generally assumed on the basis of the strong link between the services rendered by the laboratory and its economic success. Consequently, the examination of its independence of judgment may seem more elaborate. Still it serves the same purpose in all laboratories, irrespective of their organisational structure.
The procedure for becoming an ISTA accredited laboratory is outlined in the relevant document that can be downloaded from this site under "Accreditation / Related Documents".
3. How can the results of Seed Health Tests be reported, as the ISTA Certificates do not have a column for this kind of results?
Results of seed health analysis may be reported in the section titled 'OTHER DETERMINATIONS' on the ISTA International Certificate. Any result performed that does not have an own column on the Certificate can be reported there (e.g. vigour results, viability results, etc.).
4. What does the Blue ISTA Certificate cover?
The Blue International Seed Sample Certificate refers to the sample at the time of sample receipt as opposed to the Seed Lot Certificates, that refer to the lot as a whole at the time of sampling. Its design is similar to the Orange Certificates, except that information related to sampling is not under the responsibility of the testing laboratory. Handling of the sample upon receipt by the laboratory and the technical protocols are identical to tests performed for the issuance of Seed Lot Certificates. The laboratory is not accountable to what extent the test results may be used to infer characteristics of the lot as a whole.
5. What do you understand by Scope of Accreditation?
The Scope of Accreditation (SoA) refers to the analysis methods and crop groups or species a laboratory is accredited for and stands for a number of species/method combinations. Only methods and species that are listed in the current ISTA International Rules for Seed testing or that are performance approved methods for the testing for the presence of specified traits can be part of a laboratory's SoA. The SoA may differ from a laboratory's scope of testing, as other seed testing methods may be used for internal purpose. In that case a clear differentiation between testing work within the SoA and other tests with regard to reporting and marketing of services has to be made. The ISTA (re-)accreditation audit will only take into account those method/crop group or method/species combinations accreditation is sought for and, upon request and subject to the Association's approval, the SoA may be changed in between two audits.
6. Concerning the internal audits, do they have to be made by one designated person (by me for example or by anybody else…) or by a person which is designated by you or accredited by you?
Internal audits may be done by anybody having the necessary competence. Competence refers more to the technical knowledge in the field that is audited than to quality-management related qualifications. ISTA generally does not accept internal audits performed by the same people that carry out the activities that are audited; people from other departments or people from the same department but with different responsibilities than those being assessed are acceptable. External auditors (from another organisation) are not necessarily required but can also serve as internal auditors. It is the laboratory's responsibility to appoint suitable auditors for their internal audits. ISTA (re-)accreditation audits cannot replace the internal audit of the laboratory.
7. We have in our company two locations, 110 km between them. My questions are: Can I make only one Quality manual with only the specifications of each laboratory?
One quality manual may be enough, as long as the particularities of the two (or more) different locations are adequately taken into account. In similar cases, we have seen central manuals addressing all those things that are handled the same way in all locations. This central manual is complemented by specific documents or chapters for all those elements that are specific to a given location.
The quality documentation for each location is then composed of a range of individual and general documents, document control is generally under the responsibility of one central office. Two locations with a distance of 110 km would make it impossible to include them in a single laboratory accreditation.
8. I am looking for an ISTA accredited sampler in my country/distinct economy and am hoping that you have a contact there I could talk to?
ISTA is not accrediting sampler but seed testing laboratories that might have sampling in their scope of accreditation. Therefore, to find an ISTA sampler you need to find a seed testing laboratory accredited by ISTA that holds accreditation for sampling of the species of your seed lot. You can find the list of accredited laboratories on the ISTA website. Please select the country/distinct economy that is suitable for you. Select “status: accredited”. Select as test “Sampling”. You will get a selection of accredited laboratories with contact details. Please note that the accreditation is based on crop groups. It might happen that you find a laboratory accredited for sampling of vegetables only. In this case, they would not be able to sample a grass seed lot. This is why you would need to contact the laboratory and ask them if they are able to sample the seed lot of the crop in question for you. You also need to see if the laboratory has the resources to come and draw themselves a representative seed sample and if in general, the laboratory offers this service. In case they offer this service they might give you the details and the costs involved for their service. If you do not find a suitable laboratory in your country/distinct economy, you might want to check in countries/distinct economies nearby.
9. We are interested in ISTA Accreditation for the species Phaseolus vulgaris and Lycopersicon esculentum. We would like to know when these species are scheduled for the Proficiency tests so that we can apply for PT participation.
ISTA accreditation system is based on crop groups for tests such as purity, other seed determination, germination, and viability. This means that different species are grouped into crop groups based on similar features. The crop-group list is available here. For the species you listed to be interested in: Phaseolus sp. are in the crop group 4 “pulses” Lycopersicon sp. are in the crop group 6 “vegetables”. This means that if you want to be accredited for the species you listed, you need to participate in the Proficiency Test Programme for the related crop groups. Once you are accredited your participation is obligatory for all species that are listed in the crop groups you are accredited for. You should check on the PT plan when the next round is due for those crop groups and you should apply for participation, even if you are not familiar with the species. Your participation in any additional rounds is beneficial as you gain experience in testing (e.g. for the test other seed determination) and in the process of the PT participation in general.