Following incidents when thousands of Americans received unwanted and un-purchased packages containing seeds in their mailboxes, most of which were traced back to China, e-commerce company Amazon.com has now banned the sale of foreign seeds in the United States.
The unwanted and unsolicited bags contained seeds for more than a dozen plant species ranging from morning glories to mustard, as identified by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in July.
Reports of having received seed packets they did not order and those that apparently looked as if they were sent by mail from China was received recently by residents in more than a dozen states of the US.
Americans were warned by the USDA not to plant the seeds anywhere.
If seeds from other parts of the world are planted in the US, those could harm commodity crops because of them being non-native varieties, according to plant experts.
“Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the US,” Amazon said in an emailed statement on Saturday. Its policy on sale of seeds on its platform was changed by the company on Wednesday. The report of the change in policy by Amazon was reported first in the Wall Street Journal.
Punitive measures including potential removal of their accounts would be implemented by the company on the sellers who do not follow its guidelines, the company also added.
The ban also extends to plants and plant products, according to Amazon’s policy web page.
It is likely that the sending of the large number of packages with the seeds was a part of a “brushing” scam, the USDA had said in July. Such a scam involves people being sent unsolicited items from a seller and then the seller posts false positive customer reviews in order to boost its sales.
The experts analyzing some of the seeds from China found very few problems, said Osama El-Lissy, a deputy administrator for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), in an update on 11 August. Joint work on the investigation was being carried out by the US and China, El-Lissy added.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)