Centre Alerts States, Industry to be Vigilant About ‘Mystery Seed Parcels’

Centre Alerts States, Industry to be Vigilant About ‘Mystery Seed Parcels’

A directive in this regard has been issued, the agriculture ministry said as in the last few months thousands of suspicious seed shipments have been reported across the world.

The Centre has alerted state governments as well as the seed industry and research bodies to be vigilant about “suspicious/unsolicited seed parcels” from unknown sources entering into India which can be a threat to the country’s biodiversity. A directive in this regard has been issued, the agriculture ministry said as in the last few months thousands of suspicious shipments have been reported across the world.

The threat of “unsolicited/suspicious parcels with mislabelled packages from unknown sources” was reported in many countries like the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Japan and some European nations, it said. The ministry also mentioned that “the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) termed it as “brushing scam” and “agriculture smuggling”.

The USDA has also reported that the unsolicited seeds parcels may contain seeds of alien invasive species or an attempt to introduce pathogens or disease that may pose serious threat to the environment, agriculture ecosystem and national security, it added. The agriculture ministry said unsolicited/mystery seed parcels can be a threat to biodiversity of India

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Therefore, all state departments of agriculture, state agriculture universities, seed associations, state seed certification agencies, seed corporations, Indian Council of Agriculture vis-a-vis their crop based research institutes are directed to be “vigilant” about the suspicious seed parcels, it stated. Commenting on the directive, Federation of Seed Industry of India Director General Ram Kaundinya in a statement said, “Right now it is only an alert for a possible spread of plant diseases through seeds coming from unauthorised sources without orders. Seed terrorism is too big a word to use for it. There are limitations to what diseases a seed can carry. But nevertheless, it is a threat.”

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He said that these seeds could be of an invasive species or weed which if established in Indian environment will compete or displace native species. “It’s 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. This situation can be handled through vigilance and by following precautions, he said. “People in the US have received such unsolicited packets and subsequently, the USDA issued an alert. We should not plant seeds that have come to us unsolicited and destroy them immediately,” Kaundinya added.

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