Unsolicited packages of seeds have appeared in the mailboxes of people in the US and Canada | Photo via Twitter
Unsolicited packages of seeds have appeared in the mailboxes of people in the US and Canada | Photo via Twitter
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New Delhi: The Ministry of Agriculture has alerted state governments, agriculture universities, seed associations and agencies under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) over unsolicited/mystery seed parcels reaching the country from unknown sources.

The notification issued on 6 August quoted a report by the US Department of Agriculture, which called this a “brushing scam” and “agricultural smuggling”, and stated that it can be a “threat to the biodiversity” of a country.

“All States Department of agriculture, state agriculture universities, seed associations, state seed certification agencies, Seed Corporations, ICAR vis-a-vis their crop-based research institutes are directed to be vigilant about the suspicious seed parcels,” the notification said.

Also read: India’s seed sales seen growing at fastest pace in 7 years despite economic slump

Mystery seeds could hurt indigenous biodiversity

Reacting to the notification, the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) said the arrival of these mystery seed packages is a threat as these seeds could be of an invasive species or weed, which, if established in our environment, will compete or displace native species.

“Its best to proactively work to avoid their release than to have to bear huge costs for controlling them in future. All of us should be careful not to use any seed coming from unknown sources. Plant quarantine and customs checks at ports and airports have to be stringent,” said Ram Kaundinya, FSII director general.

Despite its warning over the possible nature of these seeds, the FSII said it would be a stretch to call these mystery packages ‘seed terrorism’.

“Right now, it is only an alert for a possible spread of plant diseases through seeds coming from unauthorised sources without orders. There are limitations to what diseases a seed can carry,” said Kaundinya.

Also read: This ‘seed warrior’ is collecting & preserving India’s rare, indigenous rice species

Mystery seeds delivered to US, Canada

Earlier this week, global news publications reported that people in the US and Canada had received packages containing seeds, seemingly from China.

According to the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA), residents in Washington, New York, Virginia, Florida and a few other states in the US had received unrecognised seed packets without details of origin through e-commerce companies even though the recipients had not ordered for them.

The ISTA then cautioned India about such suspicious seeds being smuggled into the country through e-commerce websites after such incidents occurred in the US and other countries. Agriculture officials in at least 27 American states had warned people to not plant these seeds and immediately contact authorities.

The US Department of Agriculture said it was working closely with customs and border officials, federal agencies and state governments to further investigate the matter.

China had brushed off allegations of sending these mystery parcels, and said that the labels in the packages appear “forged” and the information on them had errors. Beijing offered to help the US to investigate the source of these packages.

Also read: All about Agridex, India’s first agricultural index to trade in commodities market


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