SOC: Official service for control and certification of seeds and plants
SOC (official service for control and certification of seeds and plants) is a dedicated technical service in charge of the public mission entrusted to GNIS, in application of French regulation. SOC inspects and certifies seeds and seedlings, namely crop and vegetable seeds, seed potatoes, vegetable planting materials, and strawberry plants.
Based on EU rules, the French Ministry of Agriculture adopts technical regulations that deal with the production, control, and certification of seeds and planting materials. SOC’s job is to verify compliance with these regulations. The department is run by a senior state official who is appointed by the Ministry for Agriculture.
The Head of SOC oversees a central service ensuring that the control system is properly implemented and a nationwide team of inspectors. These inspectors are spread across GNIS’s six regional delegations and carry out their work across all of France. They evaluate and monitor production sites as part of registration and approval procedures (production site registration), inspect field crops and control seed/plant lots to ensure regulatory compliance.
SOC is also entrusted with the ability to control the phytosanitary requirement for seeds and planting materials movements: SOC is responsible for issuing European plant passports (within the EU) and phytosanitary inspections needed to deliver phytosanitary certificates (export outside the EU).
Finally, SOC helps verify the application of private certification standards.
On the authority of a governmental senior official temporary assigned to GNIS, SOC is organized as a certification body and carries out its regulatory responsibilities in such a way that policymakers and operators can trust that the inspection process is transparent, independent, and impartial. SOC is accredited as a certification body by the French Accreditation Committee (Cofrac) in accordance with the international standard NF EN ISO/CEI 17065. SOC’s accreditation certificate is available online (www.cofrac.fr/en; File 5-0506).