Sept. 7 (UPI) — Online retail giant Amazon has banned the sale of seeds imported to the United States or sold by non-U.S. residents amid a rash on unsolicited seeds from China being shipped to residents across the country.
“Moving forward, we are only permitting the sale of seeds by sellers who are based in the U.S.,” Amazon said in a statement.
Amazon updated its policy concerning the selling of plant and seed products on Wednesday, restricting U.S. seed sales to domestic products and sellers after the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned recipients of unsolicited seed packages to not open them due to unknown risks.
The USDA said in mid-August it has received more than 9,000 emails from citizens nationwide who said they have received packages of seeds from China they had neither bought nor asked for.
Officials said the seeds appear to part of an online “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.
The Better Business Bureau has said that this scam also increases the sales numbers of the seller, which can help lead to an increase in genuine sales.
However, the USDA said it is treating the situation with care because among the garden seeds of marigolds and herbs in the unsolicited packages, noxious weeds and bug larva have also been found.
The USDA said it is working with China to investigate the mass shipments of the unsolicited garden seeds.