E-retailer Amazon has announced that it is banning the sale of foreign seeds in the United States after thousands of residents from across the country complained that they had received mysterious packages containing unidentified seeds from China. The US’ Department of Agriculture (USDA) had earlier investigated the seeds and urged the recipients of the packages not to plant them, the Wall Street Journal reported.
An email statement issued by the company on Saturday read, “Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the US.” The policy change was allegedly initiated on Wednesday, but announced only on Saturday, according to a report by the Hill.
The seeds were mailed to recipients across the United States in yellow or white pouches, with Chinese lettering and the words ‘China Post’ on them. Some of the enveloped had labels that claimed they contain jewellery, earbuds or toys, the New York Times reported.
US authorities urged the recipients of the packages to immediately report them and to refrain from planting the seeds. From its investigation, the US Department of Agriculture was able to identify more than twelve different plant species, ranging from morning glories to mustard.
In an update shared on August 11, Osama El-Lissy, a deputy administrator for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said that there were no major problems found with the seeds, adding that US authorities were working with China to identify the origin of the packages, the Hill reported.
According to the USDA, the seeds are most likely a part of a larger ‘brushing scam’, where vendors try to increase their visibility online by shipping inexpensive products to thousands of random receivers and then submit positive reviews on their behalf.
In July, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin claimed that the ‘China Post’ address labels on the packages were fake. “I want to point out that plant seeds are articles prohibited as imports (or in transit) or admitted conditionally for UPU member countries. China Post strictly follows the UPU provisions and prohibits seeds from conveyance by post,” Wenbin said.