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Amazon bans sale of foreign seeds to U.S. customers

The move was prompted by this summer’s mystery seed deliveries

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Amazon has banned the sale of foreign seeds to customers in the U.S. after packets of unordered seeds, many postmarked from China, began showing up on U.S. consumers’ doorsteps over the summer.

The Wall Street Journal reports an email sent by Amazon to foreign sellers last week informed them of the decision. The online retailer reportedly began removing some seed and plant offers on September 3.

Amazon’s action is seen as a precautionary move. U.S. officials have expressed concern that invasive foreign plants introduced to the United States could threaten U.S. agriculture. The seeds in question are seen as suspicious since no one ordered them and no one seems to know where they came from.

The email cited by The Journal said the step is part of the company’s efforts to protect customers and improve the customer experience. An Amazon spokesperson essentially confirmed the ban over the weekend.

Limited to U.S. seed sellers

“Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the U.S.,” the spokesperson said in a statement issued to The Journal. 

Various investigators for the U.S. government, including the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) have spent the last few weeks trying to determine the source of the mystery seed shipments. A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry has maintained from the start that the mailing labels indicating the seeds were shipped from China were forged. 

Investigators who spoke to The Journal suggest the mystery seed shipments are simply a tactic some online sellers use to raise their profile on Amazon. By sending an inexpensive item like seeds to thousands of consumers, the seller may rank higher on Amazon’s platform.

The battle against invasive plants

USDA’s Forest Service fights an ongoing battle against invasive plants that thrive once they take root in the U.S. and overtake other native plants. According to USDA, invasive species have contributed to the decline of 42 percent of U.S. endangered and threatened species.

As a result, overall plant diversity can be decreased because invasive species compete with native plants for moisture, sunlight, nutrients, and space.

When you think of a non-native, invasive plant in the U.S. you need only think of the kudzu plant that has taken over large areas of southern states. Nature magazine reports an established kudzu plant grows at a rate of one foot per day with mature vines as long as 100 feet.

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