Amazon has banned foreign sales of seeds into the United States effective immediately, The Wall Street Street Journal reported citing an e-mail to international sellers it had seen.
The move comes after thousands of suspicious packages postmarked mainly from China arrived at American households this summer. U.S. government officials raised concerns about the ease with unknown seeds can occur on e-commerce sites and enter the country, creating potential threats to U.S. agriculture.
Amazon also updated its policy in line with the new rules, saying that importing seeds into the U.S., or the sale of seeds within the country by non-US residents, is no longer allowed.
The e-commerce giant's spokesperson confirmed the news, highlighting that sellers who do not follow the new guidelines will be subject to action, including account suspension.
The policy amendment comes after the U.S. Agricultural Department, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Postal Service have started an investigation into the mysterious seed shipments.
During the summer, thousands of U.S. families received seeds they did not order in their mailboxes. Most were postmarked from China. Besides, the package was labeled as jewelry, toys, or other goods. Canada and the United Kingdom have also reported a similar issue in recent months.
The U.S. authorities have said they are working closely with Beijing to determine who is sending the seed package and prevent future shipments. According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the mailing labels were forged. Beijing had asked Washington to send back packages for an internal investigation.
Agriculture officials have been concerned that seeds could potentially transmit invasive species, weeds, pests, or unknown diseases that might harm the nation's agriculture.
Osama El-Lissy from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said that the agency had received more than 20,000 reports from seed recipients and collected some 9,000 packages. The USDA has assessed more than 2,500 of those, Mr. El-Lissy noted.
The authorities identified several seeds of noxious weeds, called dodder and water spinach. The researchers also identified some diseases known to occur in China. They also found a few pests, including an immature wasp and a larval seed beetle.
The USDA collects seed packages from across the country and sends them for an inspection to botanists to determine their species and whether they are on a federal list of noxious weeds. If this is the case, the samples go to a Maryland laboratory for DNA testing. Mr. El-Lissy confirmed that the findings to date had not caused any significant concern.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the new Amazon ban?