Amazon is banning foreign sales of plants and seeds into the US as authorities try to weed out who may be sending packets of mystery seeds to people who did not order them, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The packets of seeds bearing postmarks from China have been arriving at homes around the world for several months, with the US Postal Service, Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, and Department of Agriculture all investigating the matter in the US. Many of the seed packets were labeled as toys or jewelry. As of July, more than 27 US states had reported incidents of unsolicited seed deliveries. Chinese authorities have said that the postmark labels were not authentic.
The USDA says seeds and plants smuggled into the US could do harm to gardens, farms, and the environment, and notes that “mislabeling packages in order to get seeds and other plant materials into the country is agricultural smuggling,” which bypasses rules that prevent invasive species, pests, and plant diseases from getting into the US. Anyone who receives seeds they did not order is warned not to plant them and to contact local authorities.
According to the WSJ, Amazon notified foreign sellers on its platform that it would no longer allow seeds or plants to be imported as of September 3rd. The company updated its sellers’ rules to include the new policy, and in an email to sellers said the decision was “part of our ongoing efforts to protect our customers and enhance the customer experience.”
An Amazon spokesperson said in an email to The Verge on Sunday that “Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the US.” Violating the new guidelines could get a seller’s account removed, the company added.
Update September 6th, 1:18PM ET: Added comment from Amazon spokesperson.