Until the mystery of the unsolicited seed packets is solved, Amazon is throwing a wrench into the supply chain. Foreign sellers have been told they can no longer ship plant or seed products through its site into the US, the Wall Street Journal reports; the packets often have China postmarks. The online giant's public rulebook now bars non-US residents from selling seeds in the US, as well as importing seeds into the country, and Amazon is removing sellers' pages. Households around the world have received the packets over the summer. US officials haven't found anything harmful about the seeds so far but have warned against planting them. One possibility is that it's all part of a "brushing scam" to generate volume and reviews for a seller, making its product appear more legitimate.
"E-commerce has presented us with a unique challenge," a plant health official in the USDA said last week. "These sellers must meet the US's regulatory requirements." Osama El-Lissy said the agency has analyzed more than 2,500 of the 9,000 or so seed packages it's gathered. Nothing discovered in the seeds has been particularly worrisome, per the Journal, but the USDA has seen signs of noxious weeds, diseases found in China, and pests including an immature wasp and a larval seed beetle. DNA testing, to see if the seeds have pathogens that can cause plant diseases, could be next. Amazon told sellers in an email that if they have inventory in Amazon warehouses and the company fills their orders, their pages won't start to come down until Sept. 30. (Read more seeds stories.)