Amazon has had to introduce a new policy banning foreign sellers (and non-US citizens) from selling seeds, plants, and plant products to the United States. The policy update – which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal – came into effect last Wednesday (September 2) following an influx of unsolicited deliveries of unknown seeds. Spooky, right?
By the end of last month, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) collected some 8,507 packages from 50 different states. The seeds also seem to have been shipped to some parts of Canada and even the UK (though it’s not clear if Amazon’s new policy extends beyond the US).
The USDA – which warned against planting the seeds – identified at least 14 species of seed, according to the BBC, including rose, mint, lavender, morning glories, and mustard. Planting the seeds could harm existing ecosystems, warn experts, and could potentially carry pests or diseases.
Most of the unsolicited packages appear to have been shipped from the Chinese cities of Suzhou, according to The Independent, and both US and Chinese authorities are working closely together to investigate the curious incident. So far, researchers have found very few problems with the seeds, according to a statement from Osama El-Lissy, a deputy administrator for APHIS, on August 11.
The BBC says that it is most likely a ‘bushing’ scam, which involves sellers sending out low-cost items in order to facilitate a number of fake reviews – each fake sale generates a review, boosting a company’s perceived legitimacy. Many packages were labelled with Chinese symbols and some were mislabeled, describing items like bracelets and rings.
In a statement on Sunday, Amazon wrote, “Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the US.” As of now, any sellers caught ignoring the new policy may be banned.